Claudius, King Hamlet's brother, must be seen as cunning, manipulative and driven by the baser instincts. He is Prince Hamlet's uncle, Queen Gertrude's new husband (much to the prince's horror) and the main antagonist of the play.
Before the events of the play Claudius murdered his brother by pouring poison into his ear while he was sleeping. He then passed it off as an attack by a snake, seized the throne and married the queen. When Prince Hamlet learns of all this from his father's ghost, he goes on a mission of vengeance.
Claudius, when he realizes that the prince is onto him, prays for forgivness, but Hamlet decides to kill him later when he isn't praying as he doesn't want the soul to be forgiven. Claudius sends Hamlet to England and sends a kill order with him, but Hamlet rewrites the letter and flees.
In the final scene Claudius, determined to get rid of Hamlet, has a duel organized between Hamlet and Laertes with a poisoned sword for Laertes, and, just in case Hamlet wins, has poisoned wine made ready (the wine accidentally kills Gertrude). Hamlet and Laertes kill each other, and the dying Hamlet forces his uncle to drink the wine and then kills him with the sword while he is collapsing.
"Time be thine, and thy best graces spend it at thy will!" -- Claudius, 1.2
"And we beseech you, bend you to remain here in the cheer and comfort of our eye, our chiefest courtier, cousin, and our son." -- Claudius, 1.2
"And can you by no drift of circumstance get from him why he puts on this confusion, grating so harshly all his days of quiet with turbulent and dangerous lunacy?" -- Claudius, 3.1
"Madness in great ones must not unwatch'd go." -- Claudius, 3.1
"O, my offence is rank, it smells to heaven; it hath the primal eldest curse upon't, a brother's murther!" -- Claudius, 3.3
"My words fly up, my thoughts remain below. Words without thoughts never to heaven go." -- Claudius, 3.3
"Stay, give me drink. Hamlet, this pearl is thine; here's to thy health." -- Claudius, 5.2
Hamlet, Horatio, Claudius, Gertrude, Ophelia, Fortinbras and Polonius appear as secondary characters in Tom Stoppard's play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead, which looks at the play from the titular minor characters' point of view.