In the Elizabethan era version of Hamlet by William Shakespeare, many characters' actions have an effect on the audience viewing the play. In Act I Scene IV King Claudius discovers that Hamlet has killed Polonius, his chief counselor. This enrages Claudius and he expresses anger, fear and disappointment. These actions shown by Claudius effect the audience of the Elizabethan era because it shows that a King feels authority, humanity and inefficacy.
Authority has always been a principle part of society. All rulers have used authority as control over people and their lives. King Claudius became King only shortly after the death of King Hamlet yet he already feels so powerful and has abused his authority with no regrets. Upon hearing about the death of Polonius, he becomes enraged and believes that Hamlet is a danger to all society. He wants Hamlet to be jailed for the crime he committed. This expression of anger and authority by the King would have a great effect on the Elizabethan audience. They would feel that the King in the play is most likely similar to their current reigning King. This would probably make the audience fearful of committing any crime, no matter how small. It would also make them respect their King more because they would not want to do anything to anger him.
Humanity is the quality of being human. The ability to think of things on a normal level. Shortly after Claudius' burst of anger, he begins to express fear about the death of Polonius. He is scared that he will be blamed and held responsible for his death and he does not know how he could explain it. This presents an interesting dichotomy that would definitely affect the audience of the Elizabethan era. For a King to go so quickly from authoritative and powerful to fearful and humane would confuse the audience because they expect a King to always be powerful and unrelenting. They only know their King as being a superior being that is always in control. To see a King in a confused state would cause the audience to wonder if their own King has similar experiences while ruling.
Inefficacy is the feeling of lack of power and the lack of ability to produce a desired effect. As King Claudius feels authority followed by humanity, he begins to change and feel inadequate and ineffective. He feels that he's made mistakes in his actions and is unsure of what to do next. He also feels that he should have had the foresight to lock up Hamlet before he had the opportunity to murder Polonius. He explains that he may have been too blinded by his love for Gertrude to see what was going on. Claudius then compares his situation to someone with a contagious disease and asks about the location of Hamlet. These actions would cause a very unusual effect for the Elizabethan era audience. To see such a powerful figure displaying such feelings would be alarming and the audience may feel confused and wonder how a King could feel that way because Kings have always been portrayed as being confident in everything they do. They would also see the inadequacy of the King when he asks about the location of Hamlet. The audience would expect that a King would know everything (like a God) and would be surprised to hear that he asks someone else such a question.
The Elizabethan era was an interesting time period. Kings were rulers of the free world and all people had to follow him. No one could oppose any of this wishes. For the audience in this era to witness King Claudius showing so many emotions would cause them to feel different about their reigning King. They would see that a King can be authoritative, humane and inadequate. This new found knowledge may have changed the audience's opinion of their ruler.
Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. MIT. 15 Jan. 2009 .