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The tragedy “Hamlet”by William Shakespeare has been played on the stage of the World Theater for more than 400 years. The genius of the playwright has created the possibility of different interpretations of the image of the Danish Prince. In most cases, people face two images. One image shows the prince like a noble, spiritual and, therefore, suffering person because of his internal conflict over his heavy duty - revenge for his father. The necessity to revenge and the wrong of vengeance are fighting in his soul. Another image shows Hamlet as a rebel, who can condemn deceit, immorality and rise up against reality, which shows that the whole world and his country are a prison. However, there is another image in the play, which is inextricably linked to Hamlet. It is his mother, Queen Gertrude. Their relationships varying throughout the play are fascinating to the reader. The development of their relations is one of the mysteries in the tragedy. One’s goal in this paper is to consider the relationships between these two vivid characters from different angles, and solve this mystery, examine these relationships between the two vivid characters.
To achieve this goal, one has organized the paper into three sections. In the first section, one should investigate Gertrude’s image and characterize her personality. In the second section, one should discuss the feelings of Gertrude and explore the attitude of Gertrude to Hamlet. It is important because feelings always define the relationships. One will end the paper with the third section, examining the innocence of Gertrude. Every section includes a review of the relationships between Gertrude and Hamlet.
If someone could look behind the curtain of the play, look at the queen caches, and characterize Gertrude’s interesting personality, one would say that Hamlet’s mother is not young; she is about 50 years old. She has been on the throne for more than 30 years. This background lets the reader know that she is an experienced and versed person to run the country. Her character seems to be strong and determined. During the brief rebellion raised by Laert’s supporters, who wanted to overthrow Claudius, Queen did not show her fear and menacingly ordered:
How cheerfully on the false trail they cry!
O, this is counter, you false Danish dogs!
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One knows that the first husband of Gertrude loved her dearly and selflessly. Hamlet shows the attitude of his mother to his father:
Why, she would hang on him,
As if increase of appetite had grown.
In contrast to Hamlet’s own view of the matter, the relationships of his mother and father lost its tenderness. She perceived her husband’s death without severe emotional stress:
Thou know'st 'tis common; all that lives must die,
Passing through nature to eternity.
The Queen’s character is seen even better in the subsequent events. A sudden death of the king hit the throne; the Norwegian neighbor decided that “the kingdom fell into decline” and that a rematch was possible. The new king has not sworn in yet, he needed the support within the country (Montgomery & Abigail 15). The image of Gertrude is very interesting in these circumstances. One does not need to find out when the Queen began to be closer with Claudius. An important thing is that Gertrude willingly married Claudius. However, there is no mention in the whole play which would shed light on the feelings between Gertrude and Claudius. It is not a coincidence in many plays and films, where Gertrude’s image is illustrated with clichés and her loving relationship with the king is demonstrated with minor scenes and the game without a word.
We can assume that Gertrude, knowing nothing about details of her husband’s death (officially he died because of a snake bite), made an important political move. She sacrifices her own reputation and got married a month after the funeral of her husband. She understood the marriage had been hasty. Then Gertrude told Claudius about it. It showed the farsightedness of the Queen. Partially, it also revealed her love for her son: because of her step, his position as an heir to the throne would become stronger. If Gertrude moved away from political life, Claudius would push for his heirs. Moreover, Claudius admits that he married her, “relying on the wisdom” of his court. It is possible that Gertrude did not disclose the true motives of her marriage because of the alienation of Hamlet from the court of the prince, his sensibility and a great love for his father.
Gertrude’s feelings and the attitude of Gertrude to Hamlet
However, if one looks over the character traits of the Queen, what will one see there? Gertrude is stranded between the two adversaries. Love for her son does not hinder her relations with the King because of any motivation she wants. In addition to this, she does not become an accomplice of Claudius against Hamlet. She wants to reconcile both of them. So, Gertrude loves her son very much and has some feelings towards Claudius. However, there is something else going on inside Gertrude’s soul (Jardine 12). When she had realized that her son had become mad, Gertrude immediately told Hamlet the true reason of the death of his father and her remarriage.
It is also easy to understand the reaction of Gertrude during the presentation “Mouse – trap”. When the Queen said she would not marry again, she was justifying herself:
The lady protests too much, methinks…
Later, after allegations from Hamlet, she admits:
O Hamlet, thou hast cleft my heart in twain.
That is why Gertrude feels guilt. It bothers her heart. However, in this case, the reader of the play does not understand the direct guilt of Gertrude.
In order to reveal better the relationships between Gertrude and Hamlet, it is necessary to mention Hamlet.
Hamlet is about thirty years old, although, it is not mentioned anywhere in the course of the play. Hamlet asks the gravedigger how long has the latter worked as a gravedigger. He says that he started on a day when the dead King overcame Fortinbras. Hamlet asks, “When was that?” Gravedigger grows surprised, “Did not you know? Every fool will tell it. Young Hamlet was born on that day”. Gravedigger did not answer the question. However, then he added, “I have been serving here as a gravedigger, journeyman and master during thirty years”. That is how the reader gets to know Hamlet’s age. The Prince is well-educated and studied at the University of Wittenberg. He knows German and lives on the territory of foreign countries most of the time. Despite his age, he does not take part in the leading of the country. According to his mother, he is very agile and able to fight with one of the best swordsmen Laertes. He is smart, impressionable, knows and loves theater and is popular among the common people (“... riotous crowd biased him ...”).
The Queen obviously loved her son. She wanted to talk after “Mouse – trap” to find out what had happened. She knew all the plans of Claudius, but she did not know that the wine in the cup was poisoned because a loving mother would not have allowed this. Hamlet got to know she did not betray his secret for Claudius, she did not tell him that his son pretended to be mad, although she was convinced of that. Her ability to keep Hamlet’s secret confirms in the scene at the cemetery. During Hamlet’s speaking about his love, Gertrude said, “This is mere madness”. She was obviously on the side of her son during the duel between Laertes and Hamlet. She did not know about the insidious plot of the King and Laertes, so she drank the cup of poison made by Claudius for Hamlet very calmly. These developments revealed the true feelings of the Queen towards Hamlet. Her attitude to Hamlet was contradictory and ambiguous, but her feelings were clear – she loved him.
Gertrude’s character is also controversial. It is not negative, but not absolutely positive, too. Some readers of the tragedy justify Gertrude, others condemn her. Nonetheless, we cannot estimate her guilt. We need to consider separately about the crime against every person. There is no guilt of the Queen in the death of her husband. Hamlet realized it very quickly. However, there was no more of a crime for Hamlet in this situation than realizing that Gertrude had ruined his perfect image of her. The bitterness with which he condemned her was a good indication of this. Only the appearance of the Ghost made Hamlet softer, because Gertrude was innocent indeed of the death of her husband. One cannot ignore the contradiction which appears on the funeral of Ophelia. At the beginning of the tragedy, Laertes and Polonius discussed she could not be the wife for the Prince. However, Gertrude mourned at the grave: “I hoped thou shouldst have been my Hamlet's wife”. The sense of her words was in the confirming the fact of Hamlet’s love. It is obvious that Gertrude is not to blame for the collapse of the relationship between Hamlet and Ophelia (Paglia 25).
The Queen views her moral suffering as a stain on her soul, despite no direct fault. She is innocent of premeditation (Mabillard 30).
Blaming his mother, Hamlet said that her betrayal was a direct breach of morality. It is equivalent to other similar faults: shame of modesty, hypocritical trampling of innocence. This occurs when people limit themselves to a formal religion, and all the evil lives inside. Hamlet equated Gertrude’s behavior to violations of the world order, such that made the whole earth tremble and cover the heaven with the shame of humanity. This is the true sense of Hamlet’s speeches full of genuine anger and no trace of weakness, usually attributed to him. It is not her son but the judge that accuses her in the name of all laws of heaven and earth. Hamlet’s speech exhibits more than simply his personal opinion. From the point of view of the highest laws of natural morality, estimation of the second marriage of Gertrude is expressed in it. The playwright gave Hamlet the mission to be a defender of universal basic morality.
The “Hamlet” drama has enthralled and fascinated many readers. Hamlet's mother, Gertrude, Queen of the country, is one of the brightest characters of the play. Her character can be seen as farsighted and loving. One cannot estimate Gertrude’s attitude to Hamlet accurately, yet one can surely say that it is love that guides her. Gertrude is innocent of the death of the King, but she feels the moral blame because of her marriage with his brother. Hamlet understands her innocence of premeditation, but he still bitterly accuses his mother of the marriage, which, from his point of view, was condemned by the heaven. She, like Hamlet, suffers from Claudius’ deceit - this partially redeems her moral guilt.
There is one term in the literature, which is called “Shakespeare’s hell”. It is a situation, when a person is forced to act against his will bringing the death for even the closest people around him. The power of hell captures Hamlet during the play, when he kills Polonius, renders Ophelia insane, sends to death Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, loses his mother and kills Laertes. Hamlet gradually becomes more and more like his enemies. A mystery to the viewer (and also to Hamlet) is that why Prince’s revenge is so slow. Was he a coward or a weak indecisive melancholic? No, Hamlet only had to do something contrary to his heart. Shakespeare’s play tells people about the drama between Hamlet and his mother, but it is not on the scene, it is in their hearts.