7 April 2013
Perhaps one of the most ambiguous characters in Shakespeare’s Hamlet is the queen, Gertrude. She is Hamlet’s mother and the wife of her dead husband’s brother, King Claudius. As the reader, we only see her briefly, but she still manages to be a central figure in Hamlet playing the role of the elusive and sometimes shallow queen.
There are several questions surround the life of Queen Gertrude, starting with even before the play, having to do with the death of her husband, Hamlet’s father. When the play starts, she has already remarried to Hamlet’s Uncle Claudius within such a short amount of time. This is rather surprising and revolting to her son Hamlet, who is still grieving over the loss of his father, but it appears that his mother has already moved on. That could only suggest that perhaps Gertrude was cheating on the king with her brother and her husband’s death was all but convenient for her. The ghost of Hamlet’s father gives his son disturbing information about the queen, calling her “that incestuous, that adulterate beast,” (Act I, Scene I). However, there is no definitive proof, nor Shakespeare ever addresses it in the play, leaving his audience with a sense of wonder about the queen’s devotion to her husband.
The thing that might intrigue the reader the most about the character of Gertrude is why she married Claudius so suddenly after her husband’s death. Was it because she knew that she needed a man to help her rule? Or was the meaning behind the courtship less malevolent than it appears? There lies the most important question: was it true love or was it politics that brought Claudius and Gertrude together? Hamlet paints the picture of Gertrude as an obedient and devoted woman to his father, but his opinion transforms during the queen’s second marriage. Hamlet doesn’t understand why Gertrude, who is labeled as the “th’imperial jointress” (Act I, Scene I) to the throne of Denmark,...