Essay on Passionate Gertrude in Shakespeare's Hamlet

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Passionate Gertrude in Hamlet

Like so many of the characters in Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet, Gertrude appears to be dominated by passion. This essay will explore this and other aspects of her interesting character.

Lilly B. Campbell comments in “Grief That Leads to Tragedy” on Queen Gertrude’s sinful state:

Shakespeare’s picture of the Queen is explained to us by Hamlet’s speech to her in her closet. There we see again the picture of sin as evil willed by a reason perverted by passion, for so much Hamlet explains in his accusation of his mother:

You cannot call it love, for at your age

The hey-day in the blood is tame, it’s humble,

And waits upon the judgement; and what judgement
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The queen obviously considers her son’s dejection to result from his father’s demise. Angela Pitt considers Gertrude “a kindly, slow-witted, rather self-indulgent woman. . . .” (47). She joins in with the king in requesting Hamlet’s stay in Elsinore rather than returning to Wittenberg to study. Respectfully the son replies, “I shall in all my best obey you, madam.” So at the outset the audience notes a decidedly good relationship between Gertrude and those about her in the drama, even though Hamlet’s “suit of mourning has been a visible and public protest against the royal marriage, a protest in which he is completely alone, and in which he has hurt his mother” (Burton “Hamlet”). Hamlet’s first soliloquy expresses his anger at the quickness of his mother’s marriage to Claudius, an “o’erhasty marriage” (Gordon 128), and its incestuousness since it is between family: “Frailty, thy name is woman! . . . .” Rebecca Smith interprets his anti-motherly feelings: “Hamlet’s violent emotions toward his mother are obvious from his first soliloquy, in which 23 of the 31 lines express his anger and disgust at what he perceives to be Gertrude’s weakness, insensitivity, and, most important, bestiality. . . .(80).

When the ghost talks privately to Hamlet, he learns not only about the murder of his father, but also about the unfaithfulness and adultery of his mother, “the human truth” (Abrams 467). Philip Edwards’ “The Ghost:
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