Damn Hamlet, you really know how to insult a guy.
Is there anything more evocative and gross than a mildewed ear? It smells bad, looks bad and somehow has a diminishing effect, as well.
In Hamlet’s eyes, his dad is a compendium of all the gods, a mountain, entirely wholesome.
His uncle? A mildewed ear.
Sometimes I think Claudius is cast from Hamlet’s perspective – a little reedy, mousy and cagey – but it feels important to remember that Claudius is Hamlet’s stepfather, in addition to his uncle. And 9 out of 10 stepparents look horrible to the children.
Hamlet, has good reasons to hate his stepfather – being the murderer of his father, for example – but what if Claudius were a handsome devil that Gertrude was powerless to resist?