Mrs. Cindy Vertin
Advanced Placement Literature
11 December 2014
Analysis of Gertrude
is considered to be one of William Shakespeare’s most complex tragedies; each character has a downfall that leads to his or her own demise and the demise of others. A perfect example of this would be Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother. Gertrude’s total lack of judgment and poor decisions are a major source of tragedy in Hamlet. Her need of worldly pleasure often dictates her decisions. Gertrude’s ignorance is often the source of tragedy in the play; her poor decisions cause even more strife between Hamlet and Claudius. Her passiveness causes Hamlet to resent her. Gertrude’s character essentially serves as the antithesis to her son, Hamlet. “Hamlet is a scholar and a philosopher, searching for life's most elusive answers. He cares nothing for this
‘mortal coil’ and the vices to which man has become slave. Gertrude is shallow, and thinks only about her body and external pleasures” (Mabillard). All of Gertrude’s decisions stem from her need of worldly happiness. She does not wish to mourn her husband’s death. So she marries his brother, Claudius, just two months after the King’s death. Gertrude often can’t think outside of her immediate life, so she doesn’t think of the consequences her decisions have on other people.
This is apparent when she does not think of the emotional impact her marriage has on Hamlet.
She doesn’t realize the humiliation her marriage causes him. Although she loves him, she cannot understand his anger and embarrassment. Gertrude shows a total disregard for many of her morals when she marries Claudius, her marriage became extremely incestuous. She became
Hamlets aunt and mother, while Claudius is now his uncle and stepfather.
Gertrude’s main struggle throughout the play is keeping the men in her life happy; it is her motivation. She deeply cares for Hamlet and is worried about him. She shows her only sign of emotional understanding when she is discussing Hamlet’s madness with Claudius “I doubt it is no other but the main:/ His father’s death and our o’erhasty marriage” (Act II, Sc. ii, Lines
5657). This is the first time she acknowledges that her actions may have had an effect on
Hamlet. Gertrude shows a total lack of guilt and morals. She has no idea that she has done something wrong until Hamlet confronts her about her marriage. When Hamlet points out her wrong doing, she begs him to stop accusing her, “O, speak to me no more!/ These words like daggers enter mine ears. No more, sweet Hamlet!” (Act III, Sc. iv, Lines 107109). She does not even wish to dwell on the fact that she did something wrong or even hurt Hamlet. “Gertrude truly does not know what she has done to make Hamlet so furious, and it is only when he tells her that she understands her actions to be wrong” (Mabillard). No matter what, she remains a loyal wife to Claudius. This hurts Hamlet and leads to his massive distrust in women.
Gertrude may not have very many speaking parts, but her actions have a profound effect on the play. Hamlet is already deeply troubled about his father’s death, but when Gertrude married Claudius it sends him into a deep rage. Her refusal to listen to Hamlet’s opinion in the matter contributes to his distrust of women which also stems from Ophelia rejecting him.
Shakespeare tends to show Gertrude’s effect on Hamlet by having Hamlet repeats words and speak in a tricky manner to show the amount of confusion and strife Gertrude causes him.
“Immediately before the King and Queen enter on stage, Hamlet's words, spoken as he again finds himself alone with Horatio, are so trickyor perhaps tricksythat they baffled the original compositors of the text and have set modern editors