Shakespeare's Claudius: Character Analysis & Traits Video

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  • 0:03 Introducing Claudius
  • 0:35 Character and Traits
  • 2:45 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shamekia Thomas

Shamekia has taught English at the secondary level and has her doctoral degree in clinical psychology.

Claudius is one of the central characters in William Shakespeare's ''Hamlet''. Because of Claudius' behavior, Hamlet is faced with the toughest dilemma of his life. Learn more about the character Claudius in this lesson.

Introducing Claudius

Claudius is the antagonist (the enemy of the main character) in the play Hamlet. Claudius is a morally weak villain who values power and material things more than he values others. He differs from other men in the play because he is cunning, lacks morals, and is manipulative. Other men in Hamlet seek justice and have strong morals that dictate their decisions. Claudius simply wants to stay in power by any means necessary. Claudius's primary role in Hamlet is to create confusion and anger and impact Hamlet's discovery of truth and meaning in his life.

Character and Traits

After the death of his brother the king, Hamlet's father, Claudius steps in to rule and lead the people of Denmark. Claudius tries to create a sense of peace to prevent conflict following the death of his brother. Claudius tries to decrease conflict with neighboring Norway and appears, at first, to step in as a capable new leader and king after taking his brother's wife Gertrude as his wife. Shortly after taking the throne, it is revealed that Claudius may have become king in a corrupt way, by killing his brother.

Claudius has a number of dishonorable traits, such as his greed and corruption. He is an ambitious man who wants to advance himself in whatever way he can. Claudius is manipulative in his use of language and is said to have killed his brother by pouring poison into his ear. In fact, even Claudius's way of speaking is described as poison being poured into the ear. Claudius uses Laertes' grief after the death of his father and did not tell Rosencrantz and Guildenstern the contents of the letter they were taking for him to England. When Claudius knew Gertrude would drink from a poisoned goblet, he did not stop her because it would show he was a part of the plot to kill Gertrude's son Hamlet.

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