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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enotechris eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.

lmetcalf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.

rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
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.
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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?

just-s | Student

he killed hamlets father to become king!!

just-s | Student

post#3 has explained it all already!!!

coryengle | Student

Really no debate here. Claudius was elected by a council, I can find the passage for you if you'd like. Post #3 is spot on.

quentin1 | Student
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? 

Because Claudius usurped it. Besides, I think one of the ambiguities of the play is that Claudius is probably a better politician and diplomat than Hamlet ever could be. A successful diplomat and ruler needs to be able to say one thing and do another. Claudius is a lousy human being but also an excellent politician. We see this reality in our own politicians of today. I think Hamlet resents him so much because Hamlet thinks he deserves to be king but also knows that he probably could not be as effective as Claudius as king.

anujumairah | Student

This has been subject of great debate in my mind. I even have some unanswered questions. 

From the gravedigger, we are acknowledged that Hamlet is about thirty years old. He is mature enough to take over the throne and be the king. What if Gertrude had married Polonius or even someone not related in the royal bloodline, would he have been the King?? 


missplum | Student

I will paste in from http://www.online-literature.com/forums/showpost.php?p=377147&postcount=2 since it's a nice full explanation.

In Denmark, and other Scandanavian countries it was traditionally an election rather than a firm rule of succession that determined the new king. This was not, of course, a democratic election. Only men of royal blood could be elected, and only a select group of nobles would vote. Claudius was certainly eligible to be elected king as the brother of the former king, and he strengthened his position by both marrying the queen, his former sister-in-law, and rushing things along before the son, Hamlet could return. Much of Claudius' opening speeches seem to be aimed at strengthening his position and reminding everyone that he was elected fair and square, while Hamlet mentions or implies a couple of times in the play that he thinks his uncle unfairly stole the election and the throne (see 3.4. 97-99 and 5.2.64).

Incidently, we see that there was a similar system in Norway, since there is an allusion at the start of the play to the way the uncle of young Fortinbras has succeeded to the Norwegian throne in a parallel situation of the brother taking precedence over the son. (1.2.28)

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