Essay on The Character of Gertrude in Shakespeare’s Hamlet

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Shakespeare’s tragedy, Hamlet, presents ten male characters for every one female character. The only prominent female characters are two: Ophelia, Laertes’ sister and Polonius’ daughter; and Gertrude, the queen and wife of Claudius and mother of Hamlet. This essay will explore the character, role, and importance of Gertrude. Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude, is apparently disturbed by her son’s appearance in solemn black at the gathering of the court, and she requests of him: Good Hamlet, cast thy nighted colour off, And let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark. Do not for ever with thy vailed lids Seek for thy noble father in the dust: Thou know'st 'tis common; all that lives…show more content…
“So lust, though to a radiant angel link'd, / Will sate itself in a celestial bed,/And prey on garbage.” This revelation shows Gertrude’s complex temperament and motivation and renders her much more rounded in the dramatist’s development of her (Abrams 33). The ghost asks the protagonist to disregard revenge on Gertrude: “Taint not thy mind, nor let thy soul contrive / Against thy mother aught,” and to leave her “to those thorns that in her bosom lodge, / To prick and sting her.” Gertrude has a contrasting character in the person of Ophelia, who is the picture of purity and innocence. Ophelia obeys her very morally and socially conservative father, Polonius, in every detail, even to the extent of giving him her love-letters from Hamlet; unlike Gertrude, who brazenly violates her marriage vow, then breaks social conventions in marrying within a month of her first husband’s funeral, and incestuously marrying her husband’s brother. Though Gertrude and Ophelia contrast morally, they are close socially; the queen confides in Ophelia: “And for your part, Ophelia, I do wish / That your good beauties be the happy cause / Of Hamlet’s wildness.” Gertrude shares the duties of state with her husband, presiding alongside Claudius before visiting dignitaries, and getting involved with the humdrum daily activities like Hamlet’s courtship of Ophelia. When Polonius and Claudius
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