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Conscience of Queen Gertrude in Shakespeare's Hamlet

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The Conscience of the Queen

William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet is perhaps one of his most intriguing and scandalous pieces of work. One character who is liable for much of this excitement and outrage is Hamlet’s mother, Queen Gertrude. To some readers and critics, Gertrude is conceived as an erratic, superficial and sensual woman. Others discern the Queen as an earnest, intellectual and sagacious woman whose tragic fault is her yearning for sexual satisfaction. Throughout the text, there are several legitimate arguments for both sides, but in the end, Hamlet seems to sum up the Queen’s true persona with the words “Frailty, thy name is woman”. Evidence of Gertrude’s true nature can be found in many instances through out the play such as encounters with Hamlet, other characters’ thoughts on her, and Gertrude’s conversations with several different people.

Gertrude’s first weakness, her lack of compassion, is shown early in the play when she urges Hamlet to cease mourning for his dead father. “Do not forever with thy vailèd lids seek for thy noble father in the dust. Thou know'st 'tis common. All that lives must die, passing through nature to eternity” (1.2 68-75). Gertrude tells Hamlet that he can’t spend his whole life with his eyes to the ground remembering his noble father and that it happens all the time, that what lives must die eventually. This is a perfect example of Gertrude’s shallowness. Instead of consoling her son, she advises him to move on from his deceased father. She demonstrates no grief about her husband’s death and no concern for her grieving son. In act two, Gertrude reveals that she thinks Hamlet’s strange behavior is because of his father’s death and her quick marriage. This is a perfect ex...

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...er what was happening, and finally, it took Claudius poisoning her to figure out what was right in front of her greedy eyes all along. The Queen deserved to die.

Perhaps the most truthful and noble line throughout the play was Hamlet’s description of his mother as “Frailty, thy name is woman”. While some argue that Gertrude is strong-minded and intelligent, it is obvious through her actions that she is in truth a shallow, flighty and sensual woman. Throughout the play she does not care or think about anybody but herself and is stupid enough to fail to see what is in front of her eyes all along. The frailty that Hamlet speaks of is the weakness his mother’s persona and morals. All through Hamlet, Gertrude shows a deficiency of rationality, consideration, good reasoning and strong ethics from the moment her husband dies, to the last seconds of her own life.
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