A character that undergoes transformation and development throughout the plot is known as a complex character, while a character that remains unchanged is referred to as a flat or static character. William Shakespeare’s villains are complex, unlike the earlier antiheroes of the revenge or morality plays that were popular in Elizabethan and Jacobean culture. In his play Hamlet, Claudius is a quintessential Shakespearean antagonist, portrayed as a devious, greedy, and conniving villain who commits many sins throughout the play. However, in Act 3, Claudius displays genuine guilt over his murder of King Hamlet. Hamlet sets up a play to determine Claudius’s guilt, but he is surprised to find that it confirms Claudius’s guilt and reveals his genuine culpability. Claudius is socially adept, charming, and can exhibit deep distress over his brother’s death and admiration for his wife. He is decisive, fair in his politics, and commanding in his bedroom, as evidenced by Gertrude’s allegiance. This demonstrates that Claudius is a complex character.
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