In William Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet, we see the conflicts between the titled Danish prince and his uncle Cornelius; who killed the previous king (his brother) and married Hamlet’s mother in order to take control of Denmark’s throne. Upon finding out his Uncle’s crimes, the rest of the play centers on Hamlet’s plot for revenge against Cornelius. During all of this, the loyalty Gertrude (the mother of hamlet and the Queen) is placed into question. The audience never knows whether Gertrude is loyal to her some Hamlet, or her husband Cornelius. However, in analysis of her character, on multiple occasions Gertrude has demonstrated that her loyalty at first lies with her second husband out of her naiveté, though as the nefarious deed has been revealed in the play, Gertrude’s loyalty shifts to her son. She has been wrongfully seen as villainous, and because of her naiveté is taken advantage throughout the play.
The first question raised of Gertrude’s actions is why she so hastily married her brother in law? Some speculate that she perhaps had an affair with Claudius before the death of the late king Hamlet. However, it can be seen that Gertrude, oblivious to the fact that Claudius murdered her late husband, decided to marry him so that she doesn’t lose her position of power in the royal family. How do we see that she didn’t conspire against her late husband? We see as the audience that Gertrude is innocent to this crime is when the ghost of the late king Hamlet confronts his son and reveals the culprit of his own murder. The ghost king tells prince Hamlet this of his uncle Claudius:
That incestuous, that adulterate beast,
With witchcraft of his wit, with traitorous gifts—
O wicked wit and gifts, that have the power
So to seduce!—won...
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...let. It is here, we see that Gertrude has shifted loyalty to her son and is no longer naïve to her husband’s plot.
It can be said that Gertrude assumed that Hamlet was insane and his accusations were merely nonsensical, however Gertrude’s death shows us that she is no longer loyal to her husband. When Claudius plots to have Hamlet murdered, he has a poisoned glass of wine and tries to have him drink it. Before Hamlet can Gertrude enters and tries to drink the wine, when Claudius discourages this, she replies simply, “I will, my lord. I pray you, pardon me.”(5.2.287) and drinks. This deliberate defiance against her husband shows that she is not loyal to him and she is willing to die in order to protect her son. Gertrude perishes quickly upon consuming the wine, dying in hope that her son will take his rightful throne.
Gertrude, mother of the Danish prince Hamlet, is