Shakespeare's Hamlet Essay: Observations on Gertrude

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And What of Gertrude in Hamlet?

To what extent does evil reign in the heart of Queen Gertrude in Shakespeare’s Hamlet? This essay will delve into her character, and into the deposit of literary criticism regarding her, in order to analyze her character in depth.

Philip Edwards’ “The Ghost: Messenger from a Higher Court of Values?” expresses the necessity of the Ghost leaving the guilt of Gertrude to the afterlife:

The final injunction, ‘Leave her to heaven’, must temper our feeling of the Ghost’s personal vindictiveness. It is more important, however, in giving a religious context to the punishment of Claudius and Gertrude. Gertrude’s earthly punishment is to be her conscience: ‘those thorns that in her
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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). Gunnar Bokland in “Hamlet” describes Gertrude’s moral descent during the course of Shakespeare’s Hamlet:

With Queen Gertrude and finally also Laertes deeply involved in a situation of increasing ugliness, it becomes clear that, although Claudius and those who associate with him are not the incarnations of evil that Hamlet sees in them, they are corrupt enough
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