Claudius as Evil in 'Hamlet' by William Shakespeare Essay

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The abstract concept of evil has vastly transformed throughout human history, ranging for the supernatural and mystical to the very humans amongst whom we live. In modern times, evil has become an entirely ambiguous term. Who is evil? What is evil? Men like Adolph Hitler and Saddam Hussein have been garnered with the term ‘evil' for their atrocities against fellow humans. Now it seems evil has a solely human significance; when a person violates the individual rights of others on a massive scale, he/she is evil. In Shakespeare's time – the Elizabethan era – evil had a similar, but somewhat altered connotation in the human mind. Evil was an entity that violated the English Christian monarchial tradition. Therefore, a man such as Claudius, …show more content…
The most odious of Claudius' crimes is his lack of emotion over his traitorous fratricide. Claudius doesn't even give his deceased brother a word of respect in his introductory monologue; instead the focus is upon the future of Denmark. Claudius goes so far as to chastise Hamlet for his "unmanly grief" (I.ii.94), asserting that for the benefit of Denmark, all those affected must begin to progress. Later in the play, Claudius begins to openly express his remorse, recognizing the immorality of his actions, as Claudius himself puts it: O, my offense is rank, it smells to heaven;
It hath the primal eldest curse upon't,
A brother's murder. Pray cannot I.

Claudius is unable to repent his sins to God, partially because of the heinous nature of his crimes, but also because he never feels passionately enough about his guilt to warrant repentance. Claudius himself articulates the insincerity of his prayers when he says, "my words fly up, my thoughts remain below. /Words without thoughts never go to heaven" (III.iii.97-8). The murder of his older brother, King Hamlet, seems to be just another bump along the road towards absolute power for Claudius. He rejects God's omnipotence and takes his social position into his own hands in direct violation of God's work. And according to Elizabethan beliefs, God punishes those