This paper intends to discuss the grounds that suggest Shakespeare’s Claudius similar to the Machiavelli’s prince.
Claudius has been portrayed as the murder, cunning, liar, and conspirator in the Shakespeare’s luminous play, Hamlet. Claudius does not hesitate to commit any wrong if it is going to solve any one of his motives. He even murders his own family members to achieve the king’s crown. He conspires at several occasions to gain benefits. All the above mentioned characteristics were also present in the Machiavelli’s imaginary character, the Prince. Machiavelli imagines a king who is cunning, brave and does not care about anything which comes in his way. He imagines a king who has the quality of lion and the fox. Considering the similarities between the two characters, it seems that the Shakespeare was inspired by the character of Machiavelli’s prince while portraying the Claudius in his play Hamlet. This paper discusses the subject matter and further finds a conclusion in this regard.
Niccolo Machiavelli suggests his prince that he should try to be a successful ruler instead of being a good man. Further he adds that it does not matter for the princes to be genuine, they should only look as if they are genuine. They should be manipulative, cunning and profoundly smart so that nothing could prevent them from achieving their goals. Almost all the traits that Machiavelli wanted to see in his prince were available in the Shakespeare’s Claudius. He never bothered about what others think about him or what is moral or immoral. He did everything to achieve his goals. He murdered his own brother and caused death of several others but never repented or stopped before achieving his goals of his life. He pretended to love his nephew, prince hamlet and on the other hand sent his men to kill him. He was a good orator and when his brother died he impressed all the people with his emotional speech and nobody knew that he was the man who caused the death of the king. He was willing to marry the king’s widow, Gertrude and he did whatever he wanted to do but nobody was to blame him because he committed all the acts very smartly and in the same manner which was recommended by the Machiavelli to his prince. Machiavelli argues for the use of any immorality in order to achieve and maintain the power. He gives the examples of Agathocles who occupied everything after the killing of enemy. Claudius certainly follows Machiavelli and he takes over the crown after killing king hamlet and also marries his queen, Gertrude. Claudius follows all the factices suggested by the Machiavelli to his prince but suddenly power slips from his hands and he comes to an end because as per Machiavelli some of his acts amounted to the errors. The biggest error that he committed was to underestimate prince hamlet. Machiavelli suggests his prince to never ignore the enemy while Claudius ignores the prince hamlet who was the biggest danger to the Claudius. He first tried to ignore him, and then underestimated him and at last when he decided to kill him, he chose a wrong man with a wrong plan. Claudius initially spared his life because he was overconfident of his fate and when he realized the need to kill hamlet things were gone out of his control. Here he did not follow the advice of Machiavelli and paid the heavy price for the same with crown, wife and his own life.
Machiavelli suggests that hereditary rulers sustain for the longer period with the crown and they also get the support of people. He suggests that the king should not be very expensive and should think of his people more than he thinks of his army. King Claudius was not a hereditary king and also he used to expend the money for frivolous reasons. Machiavelli suggests that the king should always be attentive and should rely on the acts and not on the fate. Claudius seems to follow this rule in the beginning but later he started believing in his fate rather than his actions and the power. He did not abide by the Machiavelli’s advices and succumbed to his own mistakes.
Claudius seems to following almost all the advices in the beginning that Machiavelli gives to his prince but at places the king Claudius seems to apply his own mind and this becomes the main reason of his failure. When prince hamlet killed Polonius and leaves the place, Claudius requests England to kill the prince hamlet. This act of Claudius was in the contrary of what was told by the Machiavelli to his prince. Machiavelli suggests that a king should always avoid the military support in his own territory. Machiavelli suggests his prince to not to trust the minister who thinks more about himself and less about the king and the state. He says that never trust any person who wants to see himself everywhere and does the things that suits him. This actually applies on the king Claudius when he chooses Polonius’s son Laertes and trusts on him to fulfill his plans. He wanted to use Laertes to kill the prince Hamlet but when Laertes’s own life was at risk, he revealed that the king Claudius should be blamed for the entire ruckus. The doubt of prince hamlet was converted into the truth and corroborated by Laeteres’s acceptance and he then stabbed the king Claudius and compelled him to drink the poison.
After having observed the abovementioned analysis of the subject and analyzing Shakespeare’s Claudius and Machiavelli’s prince, it is good to conclude that there are more than a few similarities between both the characters and Claudius seems to symbolize as the Machiavelli’s prince. The king Claudius did all the things as per the suggestions of Machiavelli in the beginning but at later stages, he committed several mistakes which were forbidden by Machiavelli. Machiavelli suggests that the power of a new king does not last very long and Claudius lost his powers very soon as he was not a hereditary king. Claudius was frolicsome who used to expend a huge amount of state money to show off. He trusted Laertes and spared prince hamlet which caused his death. There are some instances when Claudius behaves in a different way but in Toto, Shakespeare’s Claudius certainly seems to play the role of Machiavellian prince.