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The Unprincipled Family

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The Unprincipled Family



Interrelated arts

The dangerous relationship of Claudius, the king, and Hamlet, the king's nephew and stepson, contain two elements that are pervasive enough to categorize it as such. Treachery and paranoia are those traits.

Treachery is one of the basic unprinciples of the relationship, as is shown in the scene of the fencing match and the planning that goes around it. In a scene that relates to the planning of the match itself, the king and Laertes, a man whose family is dead because of Hamlet, have plotted the death of Hamlet through various things. All of which are to happen to Hamlet in the course of the match:

King. "...And wager on your heads. He, being remiss,

Most generous, and free from all contriving,

Will not peruse the foils, so that with ease,

Or with a little shuffling, you may choose

A sword unbated, and, in a pass of practice,

Requite him for your father.

Laertes. I will do't

And for that purpose I'll anoint my sword.

I bought an unction of a mountebank,

So mortal that, but dip a knife in it,

Where it draws blood, no cataplasm so rare,

Collected from all simples that have virtue

Under the moon, can save the thing from death

That is but scratched withal. I'll tough my point

With this contagion, that, if I gall him slightly,

It may be death."(IV, vii, 134-148)

So in fact, within this quote there are two foul plans, the use of an 'unbated ' foil, which is more than technically cheating in a fencing match, but then, adding insult, the use of a poison tipped foil. With the use of 'contagion' and the 'unbated' foil, Claudius and Laertes are making sure that they win. This is still not enough for them, however they move on to another backup scheme to win: a poisoned chalice:

King. "...When in your motion you are hot and dry-

As make your bouts more violent to that end-

And that he calls for a drink, I'll have prepared him

A chalice for the nonce, whereon but sipping,

Our purpose may hold there. -..."(IV, vii, 157-162)

Claudius introduces a poisoned chalice, which, as the third option, or in better terms, the third method is used to kill Hamlet. After being stabbed by Hamlet, Laertes, in his final breaths pronounces the treachery of the king:

Laertes. "...The treacherous instrument is in thy hand,

Unbated and envenomed. The foul practice

Hath turned itself on me. Lo, here I lie,

Never to rise again. Thy mother's poisoned

I can do no more. The King, the King's to blame."(V, ii, 317-321)

As Laertes states quite bluntly, the king is to blame. Claudius indirectly causes the deaths of almost everyone in the area of the match (fig.1)

But that is not all. Claudius proves himself not only conniving, but also extremely paranoid. He believes (rightly) that Hamlet is out to get him. But even realizing that, he takes extreme measures. For example, in Act 3, scene 3, he dispatches Hamlet to England, with the ever-present Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Notably, he [Hamlet] has done nothing to Claudius at this point; he hasn't fought, talked harshly, or abused him in any way. Apparently that does not matter to Mr. Guilty-Conscience , a.k.a. Claudius, who ships him off at the first sign of trouble (madness ):

King. I like him not, nor



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