O, bosom black as death!

Claudius is an interesting villain.
He’s not an Iago or an Aaron unrepentantly enjoying being a bastard. But nor is he a redemptive villain. He’s a guy who does a lot of terrible things and tries not to feel them or acknowledge them but he does have a conscience. It’s such a suggestible conscience it gets stimulated by a show and then suddenly he feels his bosom as black as death.

In a way Claudius is the most contemporary villain in the canon. He does terrible things – is in relative denial about them – and then doubles down on his terribleness after a crisis of conscience. If this play were written today, he’d be the center of the story. He’d be the Walter White, the Nucky Thompson, the anti-hero of Renaissance Lit.

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