Thursday, May 14, 2009

Casting Claudius

            Claudius is the king of Demark, and was only able to gain his royal rank by being sneaky, untrustworthy, and heartless. In a play, his character should present his dishonest character. He should be the character that the audience easily sees as the antagonist who only cares about his own needs. Through the way how the way he dresses, the actor’s looks, and Claudius delivers his lines, the viewers should see his selfishness and his lack of empathy.


            Claudius should be a character that is not afraid to display his wealth. A way an audience can easily see his affinity to being powerful and rich, is to have needlessly expensive and flamboyant clothing. As a king, showing wealth and power is expected, however Claudius should even contrast with any other royal figures in the play. I easily envision him in layer after layer of clothing. Claudius should be wrapped in silks and furs and wear unnecessary amounts of jewelry. I can imagine him with a gold ring around each finger and many gold necklaces around his neck. Of course, Claudius should have a large extravagant crown on his head. I want to cast this character this way in order to show that he only cares about living an over extravagant life. Claudius only thinks about himself as he easily brushes off his brother’s recent death introducing his need by saying “yet so far hath discretion with nature that we with wisest sorrow think on him together with remembrance of ourselves.” (Act 1 Scene 2 Line 5) Readers can easily see his lack of sorrow in his brother’s death and his eagerness to fulfill his own needs. He should be dressed looking like that goal is the only thing on his mind.


            Claudius is a rather heartless and greedy character, but extremely cunning and fitting to be Hamlet’s nemesis. His character should be portrayed by an actor who has a face that can be taken seriously. The actor should be a respectable in height and weight. The actor should be around six feet tall and should not be over weight. His face should be untrustworthy and confident. I can imagine him with a constant stern face that gives him an unapproachable look. Claudius should have a look to show him as a character that is capable of killing his brother, creating lies, and being Hamlet’s target for the majority of the play. When the audience sees him they should know that he is a character that needs to be taken seriously unlike characters like Polonius. Claudius is a character that should be taken seriously and have an image to back it up, because he is a character that knows how to trick and kill people. He is able to give an argument that Hamlet’s sorrow is an “unmanly grief” and “it shows a will most incorrect to heaven, a heart unfortified, a mind impatient, an understanding simple and unschooled.” (Act 1 Scene 1 Line 94) Although cold-blooded, his argument and thought process is respectable. His ability create a scenario to Hamlet’s death is also proof that he should be taken seriously. Claudius creates a situation where Laertes and Hamlet have a duel with Hamlet’s chance of survival stacked against him due to the use of poison. By conjuring this cunning plan, he is able to avoid responses about Hamlet’s death because “even his mother shall uncharge the practice and call it accident.” (Act 4 Scene 7 Line 67) By his actions and thoughts, readers are able to see his is confident and cunning; however he is equally heartless and untrustworthy. He becomes a character that cannot be taken lightly, which can only made appropriate by having an image that equally demands respect as well as distrust.


            Lastly, the way the actor delivers Claudius’s lines will be the most important part for the audience to see the evil king and his ambitions. Claudius needs to deliver his lines in a very confidently and without shame. It is because he is able to deceive people, that he is able to become the new king. At the same time, he has to be proud of how his chain of lies allows him to become king. It is easy to imagine his proud and confident voice when he gave thanks to everyone that “gave” him the idea to marry his sister-in-law for the good of the nation or when he was able to devise a seemingly perfect plan to kill Hamlet. However, at certain points Claudius needs to be out of character, to allow the audience to see he is obviously lying to gain the favor of everyone. When Gertrude breaks the news that Hamlet kills Polonius, Claudius says that his love for him allowed Hamlet’s condition to become worse. Claudius should over dramatize the lines “but so much was our love, we would not understand what was most fit, but, like the owner of a foul disease, to keep it from divulging, let it feed.” (Act 4 Scene 1 Line 19) By overacting, the audience will see how Claudius is pretending to feel guilt for Hamlet’s actions. The audience would be able to hate Claudius’s personality more. Everyone would easily see he is lying in order to seem like a good man.


            Claudius is a character that has the greed and apathy of an antagonist and the intelligent mind to challenge Hamlet. It is appropriate that the actor that plays him looks and sounds like a confident, proud, and untrustworthy character. Claudius is a character that needs to be respected and recognized. His clothing and accessories should show his wealth and lack of shame of how he achieved his position. Seeing how he kills his brother only for power, he would probably take advantage of it and use it to have a rich life. The actor himself needs to be confident and worthy of respect. Claudius is the man that Hamlet finds worthy of killing. Claudius’s actor must lack sympathy is his visage and give an uneasy feeling. Lastly, he must deliver each line without any shame of lying and deceiving people. He must be the character that everyone in the audience knows that he is lying. By combining all these elements together, Claudius becomes a very fitting antagonist to Hamlet. The audience will be fully able to see his ability to kill and lie without showing any regret. By having Claudius seems so evil, it allows the viewers to cheer for Hamlet more, and dislike Claudius.


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