Stefan Collini's Hamlet

1360 Words6 Pages
MADNESS, MOTIVATION, AND MORALITY: A MEDITATION ON CLAUDIUS’ POWER Aside from the governmental state of affairs that Hamlet is performed in, the play is inherently political in the relationships Shakespeare forges between the characters. Writer and scholar, Stefan Collini, defines politics as “the important, inescapable, and difficult attempt to determine relations of power in a given space.” These “relations of power” can be thought of as distributions, in which certain parties occupy more of the limited resource than others. The space of Hamlet revolves around the monarchy of Denmark, and the “important [and] inescapable” skewed distribution of power incites the conflict of this play. The players suffer from extreme clout disparity in…show more content…
King Hamlet was a praised ruler, who “for…this side of [the] known world [was] esteemed…” for his military conquests and leadership. To provide a visualization, the power structures in this play can be conceptualized as an inverted pyramid. The character at the base sits at the top, holding the most amount of influence over others. Before Claudius’ murder of his brother, King Hamlet sat at the base and Claudius occupied the section at the point of pyramid, the section with less area and less influence. As an unmarried and childless character, Claudius craved power. He had no people below him in rank with which to assert his influence. His jealousy of his brother’s success, in family and in politics, in relation to his own lack of success, leads him to plot the murder of his brother, in an attempt to assume King Hamlet’s position on the inverted pyramid of…show more content…
This is the audience’s first concrete evidence that Claudius did, in fact, murder King Hamlet. Previously, the audience based its suspicion on the ghost of King Hamlet, which is suspicious in itself due to Hamlet’s assumed insanity. By this moment in the play, Claudius has sufficiently taken the position with the most power. He has the ability to influence most of the other characters. Gertrude, by means of a lack of characterization, is subordinate to Claudius. She does not speak much in his presence, and when she does, she simply rewords his ideas as her own, like her insistence that Hamlet not return to Wittenberg. Hamlet, as a thirty-year old man, must listen to the assertions of King Claudius even though his hatred for the new king burns deeply, once again using the denial of Hamlet’s returning to Wittenberg as an example. Further, King Claudius has the influence over Polonius to ask him multiple favors, like to spy on Hamlet and Ophelia, or Hamlet and Gertrude. He also coerces Laertes into plotting Hamlet’s murder alongside him. King Claudius received the power that curbed his appetite, but by stealing it, instead of earning
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