Why is Claudius given kingship instead of Hamlet? I understand that Hamlet was out of the country (in Poland?), but why was Claudius given the King title instead of Hamlet?

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Hamlet is out of the country at school in Wittenberg, Germany. Claudius could makea good case for election on the basis of his having been closely tied to the day-to-day goings on at court and his being close to the former king. Hamlet , on the other hand,...

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Hamlet is out of the country at school in Wittenberg, Germany. Claudius could makea good case for election on the basis of his having been closely tied to the day-to-day goings on at court and his being close to the former king. Hamlet, on the other hand, is a young man, still getting his education, and inexperienced in the ruling of a kingdom.

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The tale of Hamlet precedes the Bard's version; a Danish historian, Saxo Grammaticus, wrote a history of Denmark around 1200 which includes elements of the story, including a dead father, usurping uncle, and a feigned mad prince.  Sadly, there's no historical basis for the story, but it may have been a summation originating in even earlier tales of Viking feuds. Shakespeare was just following the form of the old story.

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In addition to the documentation that is explanatory, another simple reason for Shakespeare's awarding Claudius the regency is obvious:  How could this great play Hamlet have been written otherwise?

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Post 3 does a nice job of explaining this, which is left generally unexplained by Shakespeare himself. It does explain the rush to become king and especially to marry Gertrude, and it also explains why Claudius's situation is legal but a bit dicey from Hamlet's (and indeed his own) perspective.

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Claudius took the throne. He killed Hamlet's father for this purpose. If Hamlet had been there, he might have challenged the throne. However, Hamlet was too indecisive and likely would not be able to challenge Claudius, or know what to do.
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