Greed and corruption

Capture of power and hypocrisy

At the beginning of William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”, the audience does not yet know what has been going on behind the scenes of Claudius' accession to the throne. Nor can all the characters in the play, possibly with the exception of Gertrude, suspect at this point that the new king Claudius is basing his rule on a devious fratricide.

Outwardly, Claudius hypocritically pretends to mourn the death of his brother (1.2.19) and to care wholeheartedly for the well-being of his son, Hamlet: "As of a father: for let the world take note, You are the most immediate to our throne; And with no less nobility of love Than that which dearest father bears his son, Do I impart toward you." (1.2.111-115). In the public talk, it is said that the former king was bitten by a snake in his sleep and died as a result of the poisoning.

However, at the beginning of the drama, the audience can already suspect that all is not right in Denmark. Already in the first scene, the phantom-like and silent appearance of the ghost indicates that the change of throne has not taken place as peacefully as all of Denmark believes.

The crown prince Hamlet is apparently the only one who still mourns the death of his father. His mother Gertrude, the wife of the late king, has already willingly married her brother-in-law, Claudius less than two months after the king's death. The hasty remarriage seems extremely suspicious, nut only to Hamlet but also to the audience .

In fact, what has really happened in the Danish state is revealed to Hamlet and thus to the audience in the first act. The ghost of the deceased king reveals to Hamlet that he has been deceitfully poisoned in his sleep by his brother Claudius and thus deprived "of life, of crown, of queen" (1.5.81). Claudius' supposedly compassionate behavior can now be described as nothing other than the peak of his corrupt hypocrisy.

Strategy and lie

With the unveiling of the ghost in the first act, there is no doubt that Clau...

The text shown above is just an extract. Only members can read the full content.

Get access to the full Study Guide.

As a member of, you get access to all of the content.

Sign up now

Already a member? Log in