Deceiving Character of Claudius

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Deception is a common theme portrayed throughout many works of literature. It is either detrimental or benevolent: it can be brought upon others or, most often, self-inflicted. In Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet, Claudius is one of the most deceiving characters as he murdered his own brother, married Gertrude, and then attempted to conceal his actions in order to secure his throne. Claudius represents how people can turn against you to obtain what they desire, however, in the end, they are truly deceiving themselves.

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One of the major deceptive acts committed by Claudius occurred at the beginning of the story. He lied to the entire state of Denmark by claiming that the death of his brother was caused by a snake bite. However, the ghost of King Hamlet appears and disproves this fact, informing Hamlet that he had actually been poisoned by his very own brother. Claudius did not only deceive through murder, but also by marrying King Hamlet’s widow almost instantly after his death. Hamlet was left devastated with this news and referred to Claudius as a, smiling damned villain.’ As Hamlet became more and more suspicious, Claudius realized that Hamlet poses a great threat to his reign. Due to the fear of losing his crown, Claudius was willing to do everything in his power to get rid of Hamlet. In Act IV, Scene VII, Claudius asked Laertes, What would you undertake/To show yourself your father’s son in deed/ More than in words? Then Laertes responds with, To cut his throat i’ the church. Claudius is very pleased to hear this and manipulates Laertes into getting rid of Hamlet, and informs him that the only reason he will not kill Hamlet himself, is that he does not want to be responsible for causing Gertrude to feel pain.

Initially, Claudius’ deceitful tendencies seem to be very beneficial to him as it allowed him to become the ruler of Denmark and gain the control he yearned for. He deceives more people throughout the story in attempt prevent the rest of the country from finding out he committed the murder of King Hamlet. His lying, deceitful, and devious acts all derive from the fear of losing his crown. His lust for power is so strong that he is willing to kill or rid of any obstacle that prevents him from ruling the kingdom.

Though his deceit has been advantageous for him at the start, as the story proceeds, Claudius’ actions begin to catch up to him. In act III, Scene III, Hamlet sees Claudius kneeling down and praying. His guilty conscience begins to consume him and he struggles with the lies he has told. Although Claudius is well aware of the severity of his crime, he does not only ask for forgiveness, but also does not believe he should have his authority taken from him. As said by Claudius, May one be pardon’d and retain the offence?’ On top of being overwhelmed by a guilty conscience, Hamlet is also there causing a major threat to his reputation so he is very adamant about extinguishing him. In Act V, Claudius puts poison on the tips of the swords that Hamlet and Laertes are utilizing to fight and in the goblets to ensure Hamlet dies. During the fight, both Hamlet and Laertes become injured from the poisoned swords, and then Gertrude accidentally drank out of the poisoned Goblet. Hamlet then forces the remainder of the drink upon Claudius, ultimately leading to his death.

As said by Rachel Hawthorne, Deception may give us what we want for the present, but it will always take it away in the end. Shakespeare’s play is filled with deceit from multiple characters. Ironically, it appears that those who strongly fear being deceived are the ones who deceive the most. Although Claudius’ destructive and deceitful acts provided him with temporary success, it costed the lives of six people as well as his own.

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Deceiving Character Of Claudius. (2019, Apr 05). Retrieved February 2, 2023 , from

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