Hamlet and the Character of Gertrude
Shakespeare’s sinful woman in the tragedy Hamlet is named Gertrude. Wife of Claudius and mother of the prince, she is not selected by the ghost for vengeance by the protagonist. Let’s consider her story in this essay.
There is no doubt that Gertrude is a sinner in this play. In her book, Shakespeare’s Tragic Heroes, Lily B. Campbell describes the extent of Gertrude’s sin and of her punishment:
And of the Queen’s punishment as it goes on throughout the play, there can be no doubt either. Her love for Hamlet, her grief, the woes that come so fast that one treads upon the heel of another, her consciousness of wrong-doing, her final dismay are those also of one whose soul has become alienated from God by sin.(146)
Courtney Lehmann and Lisa S. Starks in "Making Mother Matter: Repression, Revision, and the Stakes of 'Reading Psychoanalysis Into’ Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet," comment on the contamination of the queen in Shakespeare’s Hamlet:
Hamlet, a play that centres on the crisis of the masculine subject and its "radical confrontation with the sexualized maternal body," foregrounds male anxiety about mothers, female sexuality, and hence, sexuality itself. Obsessed with the corruption of the flesh, Hamlet is pathologically fixated on questions of his own origin and destination -- questions which are activated by his irrepressible attraction to and disgust with the "contaminated" body of his mother. (1)
At the outset of the drama, Hamlet’s mother 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 thi...
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Campbell, Lily B. Shakespeare’s Tragic Heroes. New York: Barnes and Noble, Inc, 1970.
Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. Lectures and Notes on Shakspere and Other English Poets. London : George Bell and Sons, 1904. p. 342-368. http://ds.dial.pipex.com/thomas_larque/ham1-col.htm
Jorgensen, Paul A. “Hamlet.” William Shakespeare: the Tragedies. Boston: Twayne Publ., 1985. N. pag. http://www.freehomepages.com/hamlet/other/jorg-hamlet.html
Lehmann, Courtney and Lisa S. Starks. "Making Mother Matter: Repression, Revision, and the Stakes of 'Reading Psychoanalysis Into' Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet." Early Modern Literary Studies 6.1 (May, 2000): 2.1-24 .
Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 1995. http://www.chemicool.com/Shakespeare/hamlet/full.html No line nos.