Hamlet and Claudius

Interpret the following excerpt from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet (IV.vii.105-124) with particular focus on its function for the rest of the play.

Claudius’ real character shines through his pretended behaviour clear enough for the audience to see on many occasions during Shakespeare’s Hamlet.   In this scene in particular does the audience get an apprehension of the new king’s real character. Numerous times throughout the play Claudius has proved himself to be a master of pretence. He has continuously succeeded in pretending to be one thing when really he was entertaining deeply malicious thoughts in his mind. This is manifested when he is supposedly mourning his brother’s death although he himself has murdered him and goes on   to marry his brother’s wife (cf. I.ii.1-13). The same scheme appears when he seems to be worried about Hamlet’s well-being and his mental state of mind, i.e. his madness, but really seeks a way to get rid of him for good thus arranges for Hamlet to be shipped off and executed in England. Realising that his plan has failed and Hamlet did not die in England as anticipated, he decides to make Laertes his next tool in the elimination of Hamlet. The way he ‘prepares’ Laertes for this destined course is represented in this scene. This essay will argue that the excerpt from Shakespeare’s Hamlet (IV.vii.105-124) serves to overtly reveal King Claudius’ ruthless and manipulative behaviour and foreshadows certain tragic developments that will unfold within the rest of the play. It will also focus on the theme of pretence which continuously worms its way through the play as a kind of leitmotif.

This excerpt exposes King Claudius as a ruthless and manipulative character who has others do his dirty work and is solely concerned with his own good. King Claudius’ rather awkward question towards Laertes whether “his father [was] dear to [him]” (IV.vii.105), or whether he (Laertes) was “like the painting of a sorrow, / A face without a heart”...