‘A King of Shreds and Patches’: Claudius, Clothes, Feelings
Claudius is not only the villain of Hamlet but one of Hamlet’s doubles. He is also his own double, because there are two Claudiuses: one whom the court as a whole seems to see, a benign and effective ruler whose legitimacy no other character questions, and the usurper and murderer that Hamlet sees. This essay considers how Claudius appears to different characters, and suggests that the relationship between his varying images sheds light on the play’s pattern of linkings and doublings. While the Ghost wears different costumes in different scenes, Claudius always looks the same, but talks differently to each person he speaks to, thinking himself into their heads. His complexity and emotional intelligence make this his tragedy as well as Hamlet’s.
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