Bloody, bawdy villain!

You know, it’s funny about Claudius. He’s clearly a villain. He knows he’s a villain. We see his villainy in action later in the play. But while he is villainous, he’s rather bloodless. His fratricide is with poison and through the ear, no less. It’s an exceptionally un-intimate way to kill someone and not at all bloody.

When he sets Hamlet up to be killed, he does it with paper. When he tries to kill Hamlet a second time, he does it with a poison pearl. When he’s wounded, he seemingly doesn’t attempt to draw his own sword, he asks for the defense of his friends.

And while we could see the act of leaping into his brother’s bed with his sister-in-law as bawdy, there’s just something about Claudius that seems more politic than sexy.

Which may be part of the reason he’s so hard to work up the energy to kill. He doesn’t act like a bloody, bawdy villain. He acts like a white-collar criminal, like a political scammer. He makes you want to confront him with paperwork, not run a sword through him.


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