“He who wishes to be obeyed must know how to command,”Machiavelli. (10) The Prince by Machiavelli highlights how one should be obeyed and maintain power. In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, these characteristics are shown between the main characters, Hamlet and Claudius. This tragedy is a battle of a king in power and one trying to dethrone him. In the end, Claudius displays a better resemblance of a Machiavellian leader. Machiavelli defines a successful leader as charismatic, inventive, manipulative and willful; than a benevolent, kind prince . Hamlet possesses some of these qualities such as inventiveness and manipulativeness as he is seen feigning his father’s death to the point of insanity. Machiavelli states, “ Everyone sees what you appear to be, few experience what you really are” (Machiavelli, 47). This saying is illustrated by Hamlet as he puts on a show and acts to be mad when in reality, he is not. Hamlet acts as if he is still mourning the loss of his father after two months of his passing, Gertrude questions “Why seems it so particular with thee?”
Hamlet responds: “Seems, madam? Nay, it is, I know not ‘seems’” (1.2.7576). Suspicion creeps into to the mind of the those around him, and they confront him about it. He covers his tracks by saying that he does not seem this way, rather he is in this current state. However, he also retains qualities that Machiavelli would have deemed as flaws in a ruler. He falls short in his appearance by this because he incurs confusion with reality and the facade he is undertaking. This ends up being one of his worst enemies. He is in opposition of one of Machiavelli’s points which states that a prince should not let their emotions get in the way when making rash choices on behalf of the kingdom. He Split between personal morals and willfulness, he battles between inaction and action. His battle proves to be detrimental at times due to the missed opportunity of ending Claudius swiftly and effortlessly, “Now I might do it. Now he is apraying/And now I’ll do’t (Shakespeare 3.3.7475).
Moments after he said that, he has a change of heart, missing a perfect opportunity, “To take him in the purging of his soul/When he is fit and seasoned for his passage?/No”(3.3.8688). Thinking he will get an even better moment and using this as an excuse to feel peace at mind, he stashes his sword, “Up,sword, and know thou a more horrid hent” (3.3.89). His idling in this is situation deems him unworthy in affirming a position of power in Machiavelli’s eyes. He appears to be weak to him because he goes against his belief that “it will always be more advantageous for you to declare yourself”(Machiavelli, 34). On the contrary, a prince should be strong in declaring himself and be able to protect his kingdom “without national arms no Princedom is safe” (Machiavelli 37).
Hamlet cannot protect a kingdom and maintain power because he can not even establish who he is and protect his heir to the throne. Also, he would see him as a stooge rather than an intelligent figure because of this, “The wise man does at once what a fool does finally” (45). Due to the weaknesses Hamlet exhibits outnumbering the strengths, he would not have been a good leader. On the other hand, there is the king, Claudius. He is the manipulative, scheming politician. Claudius is an expert in hypocrisy and deception, compared to others in Hamlet .
Claudius is concealed behind his mask of justness, concernment and gentleness. He pretends to care for his subjects, mourn for his late brother, and love for his stepson, Hamlet. Claudius does not let his conscience get in the way of his goal. His skill at deceiving the public is quite remarkable;
“Though yet of Hamlet our dear brother’s death
The memory be green, and that it us befitted
To bear our hearts in grief and our whole kingdom