Claudius is an Idiot

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To be totally honest, I never really read much of Hamlet. Reading the scene reviews at the beginning of each scene a few minutes before class seemed to do a fine job of explaining the events, so why put forth any extra effort. Sure I read in class and maybe a little bit at the bus stop, but never any more than I‘d have to. (After all, there were episodes Buffy the Vampire Slayer that needed to be watched.)
So when I found out that I was playing the role of King Claudius, I was a little let down. At that point in time, I thought that Claudius’ character was boring and kind of “blah.” I sort of hoped that I could get a quirky character, like Polonius or Hamlet, because I feel more comfortable when playing characters who say and do funny and/or ridiculous things. But I was dealt that hand, and I knew I would just have to make the best of it.
Upon my first reading of my assigned scene, I had little-to-no idea as to what was going on. Characters seemed to just walk in randomly, entire lines didn’t make sense, and I was far more preoccupied with figuring out why the heck my bangs want to curl at the end. However, I really needed a good grade on the project, so I forced myself to trudge through read after read. My mind, in a sub-conscious attempt to make the reading more appealing to myself, automatically told me to try to find the humor in every character and interaction, even if on the surface it looked like there was no humor to be had.
Each time I read through the scene, I slowly started to figure it out. I finally started noticing vital parts of the scene, like how crazy Polonius acted, the significance of Voltemond’s seemingly unimportant appearance, and the quirks of the relationship between Claudius and Queen Gertrude. As I slowly began to understand the other characters in the scene, I was slowly becoming able to understand Claudius’ character. I found that, while the judgment I made after just glancing at Claudius was partially right, the King was more than just serious and businesslike.
The whole relationship with he has with his wife is screwed up beyond belief. He killed his brother, and married the dead King’s then widowed wife. But Gertrude is totally unaware of all that crap that has been going on behind her back. So whenever she brings up King Hamlet in front of Claudius, he gets all awkward and doesn’t quite know what to say.
Another fun thing I found out about Claudius is that he was quite possibly the worst parent to ever walk the planet. It’s clear that at some point Claudius went up to Gertrude and said something along the lines of, “Hey, your son has been pretty surly lately, there must be something wrong with him. Wait, I know what we can do to help him! We can get his old friends that he hasn’t seen in years to come and get him to divulge his dark secrets. Then they’ll tell them to us! It’s a foolproof plan!” Then, when he talked to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, he says, “What it could be, aside from his father’s death, that has put him so far from the understanding of himself, I cannot dream of.” So not only is he a bad parent, he’s ignorant of common human emotions. Even when his wife calls him out by saying, “I doubt it is any other than the main, his father’s death and our o’erhasty marriage,” in reference to the reason for Hamlet’s pissy mood, Claudius still tries to stand by his crazy reasoning.
After figuring all this out, Claudius became a character who was very fun to play. I left some of his serious persona behind, allowing him to become the straight man to Polonius’ funny man. I ended up making a really awkward, nervous, and ignorant character who, hopefully, was entertaining to watch.





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