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Claudius, Act I, Scene II


            In Shakespeare's play Hamlet, Act I, Scene II, Claudius presents himself to be arrogant, authoritative, as well as compassionate, as the new King of Denmark. The role of Claudius is known to be the most intriguing and crucial character in this tragedy. Claudius is the most controversial, the most mysterious and the most talked about character in this play. According to the quotation presented in The Prince, by Nicolo Machiavelli: "Every one sees what you appear to be, few really know what you are, and those few dare not oppose themselves to the opinion of the many, who have the majesty of the state to defend them", Machiavelli speculated that the strongest leaders are ones who are able to carefully balance appearances to his/her benefit, strategically using them to strengthen his/her regime. If Machiavelli was indeed correct, then Claudius, from Shakespeare's Hamlet, starts off as an ideal Machiavellian prince.
             In Act I, Scene II, Claudius appears to have complete control over Denmark, as evidenced by his imposing speech to the court: "Therefore our sometime sister, now our queen, Th"imperial jointress to this warlike state, Have we, as 'twere with a defeated joy, With an auspicious and a dropping eye, With mirth in funeral and dirge in marriage, In equal scale weighing delight and dole, Taken to wife." (1.2: 8-14) In this scene, Claudius, who has only recently taken the throne after the death of his brother, addresses some pressing issues. Seeking to create a strong early impression, Claudius uses his words very carefully, taking great pains to both mourn his late brother and celebrate his marriage. Claudius" words of "Therefore our sister, now our queen" show the incestuous relationship existing between Gertrude and himself. Furthermore, with the words "imperial jointress to this warlike state" he justifies the potentially controversial union by making it appear like a benefit to the entire kingdom.


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