Internet Shakespeare Editions


Claudius: divine right?

The Elizabethan audience had been thoroughly conditioned to accept the Tudor Myth, with its attendant doctrine of the divine right of kings-- according to which Hamlet would have automatically been king, and Claudius a usurper.

Yet Hamlet mentions that Claudius "popped in between th'election and [his] hopes" (5.2.65); the Denmark of Hamlet, like the England (and Scotland) of earlier monarchs, had a system whereby the nobles chose the next king, though they usually followed the advice of the previous monarch: thus Fortinbras has Hamlet's "dying voice," and Macbeth must overcome the nomination of Malcolm as Prince of Cumberland (1.4.39).