31 Days, 31 Villains: #9, Claudius

For villain #9 we revisit the bad brothers list for Claudius, the fratricide who commits that “murder most foul” that kicks off the plot of Hamlet. We’re in the top ten, oh yeah.

The Villains so far:
#31 – Iachimo, Cymbeline
#30 – Saturninus, Titus Andronicus
#29 – Cloten, Cymbeline
#28, #27 – Chiron and Demetrius, Titus Andronicus
#26 – Caliban, The Tempest
#25 – Shylock, Merchant of Venice
#24 – Cassius, Julius Caesar
#23 – Proteus, Two Gentlemen of Verona
#22 – Duke Frederick, As You Like It
#21 – Don John, Much Ado About Nothing
#20 – Duke of Buckingham, Richard III
#19 – Antonio, The Tempest
#18 – Dionyza, Pericles
#17 – The Queen, Cymbeline
#16 – Leontes, A Winter’s Tale
#15 – Antiochus, Pericles
#14 – Duke of Cornwall, King Lear
#13 – Oliver, As You Like It
#12 – Queen Margaret, Henry VI and Richard III
#11, #10 – Goneril and Regan, King Lear

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5 comments on “31 Days, 31 Villains: #9, Claudius

  1. wordwizardw says:

    I always considered the prayer scene to show that Claudius WANTS to be absolved, but realizes he can’t because he still has the things he got by the villainy, and can’t give them up. He doesn’t CHOOSE; he is trapped.

    Have you considered Hamlet as a possible villain? A lot of people die because of him….

  2. This is a good point – Claudius, however, does have the option of giving up those things he got, even if he couldn’t publicly admit his guilt to the nation, and possibly still be absolved. He has to look his “offense” in the face and *say* that he has chosen to live with the ill-gotten gains and the guilty conscience rather than give them up and have a clear conscience. That’s how I see it. He does, of course, want to be absolved, absolutely! And Hamlet… I’ll discuss that after the list is up, you’ll have to watch the rest of the top ten to see if I include him or not! 🙂

    • wordwizardw says:

      How could Claudius just give up the crown AND HIS WIFE in a time of no divorce, with no explanation to the nation? Do you think no one would notice, or draw conclusions? Just think what a fuss was made when Whats-his-name gave up the English crown in order to marry a divorced woman? Practically in the present-day, too, when the crown means nothing, power-wise. I don’t know what kind of penance would be placed on a fratricide and king-killer, (Go live in a monastery? Become a beggar?) but it would probably be something hard for others to ignore. It would probably be as good as a public admission of guilt. Is there a Catholic priest who could weigh in on this?

      • Duke Frederick manages to go live in a hermitage. Claudius would never do this, but he has to face down the possibility of true repentance and say, you know what, I’m not willing to do it. He would have to face the music in some intense way, and he simply won’t. Showing us the “penance” scene is the way Shakespeare explains that Claudius looks his evil in the face and truly accepts it beyond a kneejerk thing.

      • wordwizardw says:

        I just think Claudius realizes that he hasn’t got it in him to truly repent. He still WANTS Gertrude and the crown (+he is doing a competent job at it–who knows whether someone else would be as good at it–he may rationalize that it’s in the people’s interest). He CAN’T face the music in an intense way. How many people COULD give up a wife (whom he may love) and a crown (when they’re good at ruling) and not care what others might think of them, +join a monastery BECAUSE IT HAS BEEN IMPOSED ON THEM–not because they feel called to it?

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