The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1817  Friday, 20 July 2001

From:           Brian Haylett <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 19 Jul 2001 16:27:34 +0100
Subject: 12.1789 The Tragedy of Claudius
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1789 The Tragedy of Claudius

My thanks to John Drakakis for his explanation. Being in a bit of a
hurry, I must set aside for the moment the regicide argument and simply
answer the questions below:

>So what then might the source of Haylett's sympathy for Claudius be?  In
>what ways can he be described as an 'efficient' king?  He lacks the
>directness of approach that had characterised Old Hamlet's rule, hence
>his use of intermediaries: Cornelius and Voltemand, Rosencrantz and
>Guildenstern,  Gertrude,Ophelia and Laertes, and his crime finally
>emerges into the cold light of day.  So much for the claim of

The directness of approach used by Hamlet Sen consisted of going into
the battlefield and clobbering Fortinbras. Claudius negotiates the
removal of the threat to Denmark by having Young Fortinbras put in his
place without bloodshed. That seems to me - a weak-minded liberal -
admirable in a king.  The fact that he uses intermediaries to accomplish
it seems fully in accord with diplomatic practice: that is what
ministers of state are for.

This seems to me to justify sympathy for Claudius, for all that he has
negotiated is thwarted by the gadfly approach of Hamlet. Let us not
forget that it is not Claudius's fault that Fortinbras is able to walk
into the country in the final scene.

I must remind John that I was dealing with the question: can we feel
pity for Claudius? I did not say that pity was all we might feel. The
point was that Claudius was a more complex character than any pure
villain - which was relevant to the correspondence up till then. I have
no quarrel with John's argument about the greater insight into Macbeth's

Would I like to meet Claudius? Perhaps not, but I would rather have him
ruling the neighbouring country than Macbeth.

Brian Haylett

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