Here is the answer and explanation to the question What kind of woman/Queen/widow/mother is Gertrude?
What kind of woman/Queen/widow/mother is Gertrude?
Gertrude is a good mother and queen, but one who seems to be trapped in an unhappy marriage, subservient to her husband and son.
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Gertrude, among Shakespeare’s women characters, is one who seems especially trapped by circumstances and the constricted roles into which many women were forced. We are not given much background or explanation of her marriage to Claudius soon after Hamlet ‘s father’s death. In act I, she calmly and rather…
Gertrude, among Shakespeare’s women characters, is one who seems especially trapped by circumstances and the constricted roles into which many women were forced. We are not given much background or explanation of her marriage to Claudius soon after Hamlet’s father’s death. In act I, she calmly and rather superficially tries to explain to Hamlet why he shouldn’t let his father’s death keep him in a continued depression and withdrawal from life. She is not angry at him or intolerant of his behavior, and she shows genuine sympathy for him, as any mother would, so she’s essentially revealed as a good mother from the start. But the impression she gives of herself is, to an extent, one of shallowness. It’s a matter of interpretation as to how much of her behavior is rooted in Claudius’s manipulation of her and the usual subservience women had to show to a spouse, especially a royal one. There is absolutely no reason to suspect that she had any part in her husband’s death, but she probably was not very upset by it, judging by her indifferent attitude. She might have been in love with Claudius from the start, and thus welcomed Hamlet’s father’s death. Again, however, her seemingly cool manner could simply be the restrained way women were supposed to act. Perhaps the marriage to Claudius was something she felt necessary for her own protection and survival in a world where a widow’s position is always lonely and difficult, even today.
As queen she seems removed from the issues of state affecting the realm, and there is a kind of passivity about her in general. In the scene where Hamlet kills Polonius, Hamlet is abusive to Gertrude to a agree that devastates her, as it would any mother. Yet, as a mother she is infinitely forgiving. At Ophelia’s funeral she pleads to the others about Hamlet, “For love of God, forbear him!” Hamlet’s raving to Laertes about how endlessly he will fight with him “on this theme” makes Gertrude cry despairingly “O my son, what theme?” This is a mother devastated not only by Hamlet’s abusive behavior to her, but also, of course, by seeing her son in such a pitiful, nearly psychotic state, a state quite real and not “feigned” any longer as part of an elaborate ruse. Her love for her son is also shown in her addressing the dead Ophelia by saying she wished Ophelia had been Hamlet’s bride. Whatever else may be said negatively about Gertrude, she does love her son fully, clear up to the tragic end for both of them.
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