Hamlet Act Iv: Examining Claudius

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Hamlet Act IV Paper: Examining Claudius Shakespeare’s male characters, though oftentimes twisted and malevolent, seem always to have a moral compass, a sense of justice and underlying awareness of what is right and wrong. In fact, these themes are the root of countless anguished monologues and soliloquies. At first glance, it would appear as though Claudius bears no resemblance to these other, more noble characters. His only worry seems to be the maintenance and security of his power over Denmark and its people. However, in Act IV, several intertwining themes begin to rapidly develop, and ultimately prove the previous assumption wrong. Act IV examines the idea of public life versus private life, the consequences of secrecy, the slippery ambiguity of language, and the ultimate humanity that exists in each and every one of Shakespeare’s characters. After Hamlet kills Polonius, Claudius faces a difficult dilemma in persecuting him. He must maintain his clean image as a ruler, an image that would certainly be tarnished by a murder within the wall of his very home. Much like today’s movie stars and musicians, the royal families of Shakespeare’s time had to be very careful with the image they projected to the public eye. This careful maintenance was crucial, as any sign of disruption or internal chaos could be perceived as weakness, an easy target to attack. This additional layer of secrecy and mystery simply adds to the claustrophobic and overall sinister tone of the play in general -- no one can truly express themselves with freedom and clarity, and if they did, they would surely be punished for their words. There is always someone watching, always someone listening. Claudius, however, seems to thrive on this way of life, moving shadowy behind a filmy curtain of deceit. Something is most definitely rotten in the state of Denmark, and while this fact slowly erodes
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