Summary: the Relationship Between Claudius and Hamlet

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Everyone processes and reacts to the passing of a loved one in their own individual way but Claudius and Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude wasted no time and became incestuous lovers shortly following the death of King Hamlet, brother to Claudius and widower to Gertrude. The two completely refused to spend time mourning the death of their loved one and married less than two months after King Hamlet’s death. This forever changes the relationship between Hamlet and Claudius because of how extremely sudden it is. Claudius transitions from an uncle that Hamlet may have looked up to, to his step-father. 

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Hamlet expresses his immediate disapproval when he sarcastically assesses his new relationship with Claudius, “A little more than kin, and less than kind.” Hamlet refers to Claudius as “more than kin” because he is no longer just his uncle. He also describes the relationship as “less than kind” because of how unnatural it is. Not many have someone to call “uncle-stepdad” due to how unheard of their situation is. Here his choice of words is important, as they reveal Hamlet’s loathing for King Claudius. The two view the death of King Hamlet differently and like most children who have lost a parent, Hamlet desires to devote time to grieve his great loss. Claudius thinks otherwise and firmly suggests.”...’Tis unmanly grief it shows a will most incorrect to heaven”. Claudius implies that Hamlet is a good son for mourning his father as he is, but he is also overdoing being overwhelmingly saddened by it for so long, which is upsets God and is not the proper way to grieve. Here Claudius is hinting that Hamlet should be more like him, to respect the King that his father was, and to essentially get over it because this feeling is not unparalleled to Hamlet and every man has to endure the loss of their father, as they have since the beginning of time. As he continues lecturing Hamlet, Claudius later proceeds to claim,”We pray you, throw to earth this unprevailing woe, and think of us as of a father”. Claudius wants Hamlet to speed up his depressive episode, in order to start treating him as if he is Hamlet’s new father, despite having known Claudius as an uncle for his entire life. This is his initial attempt to befriend Hamlet before he became aware of the manner in which his father died. 

The relationship between the two was once typical of an uncle and nephew. It becomes more complex with the matrimony of Claudius and Gertrude. Hamlet directs all of his hatred towards Claudius and is reluctant to accept him as the new King because he believes that Claudius will never be able to measure up to who King Hamlet was, which contributes to his madness in that, he feels like a prisoner unable to escape the unpredictable position he was blindly placed in.

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