King Claudius: Shakespeare’s Attention Seizer Essay examples

Submitted By chungy3
Words: 938
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Justin Chung
Mr. Basinger
ENG4U
25 April 2014

King Claudius: Shakespeare’s Attention Seizer

Murder, jealousy, hate, incest and most importantly revenge, are all themes that William Shakespeare incorporates into the brilliantly written play Hamlet. Shakespeare added many of these themes to produce a desired effect on the Elizabethan audiences watching his plays at the time. The audience’s reactions to these themes are the very reason why Shakespeare’s plays were so renowned and popular at the time and even today, four hundred years later. One of the greatest passages in Hamlet that produces the desired effect on the Elizabethan audience was by King Claudius that starts: “O heavy deed! It had been so with us, had we been there. His liberty is full of threats to all…” (IV, i, 13-24, 29-33) At this point in the play, Claudius has just found out that Hamlet has killed Polonius. Claudius becomes enraged and expresses authority, humanity, and fear, which are the elements for which Shakespeare intrigues the audience and pulls them into the life of the dramatic play Hamlet. The Elizabethan Era (1558 to 1603) is considered the golden age in English history. This was a period of peace, prosperity, and advancement in cultural life. In this time, a monarchy type of government ruled England. The monarch sitting securely on the throne was Queen Elizabeth I of England. The key to success for a monarchy government was authority, which is still exercised today over citizens even in a democratic society. Claudius exercises his authority over Hamlet by sending him off to England with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern: “But we will ship him hence, and this vile deed, we must, with all our majesty and skill.” (IV, i, 31-32) Prior to this event, Claudius had been spying on Hamlet numerous times in attempt to keep an eye on his madness. The expression of authority that Claudius was displaying would have produced the effect Shakespeare wanted on his audience. This would make the audience fearful of committing crimes against the monarch or in their case, Queen Elizabeth I. This would also produce the effect on the audience to have more respect for their Queen. As many Kings/Queens were seen to be authoritative figures, they could at times show emotions leaning more towards a softer side. Although King Claudius is in a position that is ruled with fear and authority, he is shown have some humanity or human like qualities. Claudius is scared that he will be blamed for the death of Polonius. He also reveals his love for Hamlet like a son: “But so much was our love, we would not understand what was most fit.” (IV, i, 20-21) For a king to show affections such as love; this is something new to the audience. They would not have been exposed to the personal life to someone such as a King. This would be very confusing for the audience as the King is supposed to be a powerful and merciless authoritative figure. Citizens would only know their King to be a figure of complete control. It is Shakespeare’s intention to evoke emotion dictated by each scene, which he successfully achieves with King Claudius. In desperate times such as war, a King or Queen is supposed to rally the nation, although inside he or she may fear for their life. Cold sweat filled with fear and humanity dripping down to the floor and splashing with authority. These were the exact emotions King Claudius was feeling during the moment of his great soliloquy. Although by the end of his passage, he feared for his life: “His liberty is full of threats to all—To you yourself, to us, to everyone.” (IV, i, 15-16) Claudius fears that Hamlet could be a danger to himself. Not only does he show authority by sending Hamlet…