In the first three acts of the play Hamlet, King Claudius go through a subtle, but

defined change in character. Claudius role in the play begins as the newly corrinated king

of Denmark. The former king, King Hamlet, was poisoned by his brother, Claudius,

while he was asleep. Claudius, however, made it known to everyone that the king died of

a snakebite in the garden, and thus no one knew of the murder that had just taken place

making his murder the perfect crime. The only problem that Claudius must deal with

now is his conscience.

After Claudius commits the deed of killing King Hamlet, he almost immediately

marries Hamlet's wife, Queen Gertrude. Claudius also gains a new son, his former

nephew Hamlet, the son of King Hamlet. Young Hamlet is very displeased with his

mother's hasty marriage of Claudius and is angered by this incest. Hamlet has a deep

attraction for his mother which goes beyond the traditional, mother-son relationship. At

this point in the play, Hamlet does not know that Claudius has murdered his father, but he

dislikes him anyway. Claudius is not a bad king, which is demonstrated by his handling

of the situation between Young Fortinbras and Denmark, but he is not extremely popular

with the people and has brought back the obnoxious custom of firing the cannons

whenever the king takes a drink. Claudius' conscience, here is non-existent.

After the ghost of the dead King Hamlet tells Hamlet to avenge his murder, Hamlet

has a reason to truly hate Claudius. From this point on in the play, there is definitely

friction between the two. When Claudius offers Hamlet the throne after he dies, Hamlet

acts apathetic as if the rule of Denmark was, but a mere trifle. Hamlet enters a deep

depression which the king and others, see as madness. First they think that Hamlet is

lovesick over Polonius' daughter, Ophelia, but after the king spies on Hamlet and Ophelia

in conversation, he comes to the conclusion that Hamlet is mad, a threat to his rule, and

must be sent to England to be executed. This is a sign of the king's uneasiness over the

mettle of Hamlet's anger which is directed towards him. The last thing that Claudius

wants is for Hamlet to be unhappy with him, in fear that Hamlet will overthrow him,

discover the murder, or possibly kill him. The king becomes increasingly nervous as

time passes, making him a bit paranoid over Hamlet.

By the beginning of Act III, Hamlet is almost ready to kill Claudius, but he still

needs more proof that Claudius killed his father, and he also wants to put off the murder

because he is a bit of a coward. Claudius is beginning to lose his composure. Hamlet

decides to set a trap for him in the form of a play. The subject of the play is the murder

of a king by his brother who, in turn, marries the king's wife. The plot of the play is

strikingly similar to the circumstances of King Hamlet's murder, which strikes a

disharmonious chord in the conscience of Claudius. In the middle of the play during the

murder scene, Claudius gets up and begs for the play to stop so that he can get some air.

Hamlet is very angered by this because it confirms that Claudius did kill his father. Later

that night, Claudius prays to god to forgive him for his sins, but he is not ready to give up

his new crown and his new wife. Guilt has begun to cloud over Claudius' thoughts, and it

will indeed drive him to the brink of insanity and beyond. Hamlet spies Claudius,

praying with his back turned and on his knees, but he passes up the opportunity to kill the

monarch with the excuse of not wanting to accidentally send Claudius to Heaven.

The development of Claudius' guilt is a gradual transformation. This

metamorphosis will come to a head later in the play. The guilt though, has already begun

to affect the actions of Claudius in his everyday life, by transforming a normal night out

to the theater into a devastating insight into his own life. Hamlet, although he does not

know it, is a key instrument in bringing about Claudius' guilt, and Gertrude is still a bit

nervous about her marriage with Claudius. Claudius life, because of the murder,