William Shakespeare's Hamlet

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William Shakespeare's Hamlet

Perhaps the greatest uncertainty in William Shakespeare's Hamlet is

the character of Queen Gertrude. Undoubtedly a major player with

regard to number of lines and contribution to the action of the play,

her personality is nonetheless basically undeveloped. It is also

notable that Gertrude is perhaps the only character besides Hamlet

with enough power over all of the characters to stop the play's tragic

series of events, but she cannot, for she seems entirely unaware of

what is transpiring right in front of her. Gertrude's importance to

Hamlet therefore exceeds the tangible functions of her character. Her

power makes the tragedy Hamlet initiates evitable, but it occurs

anyway because her naïveté prevents her from stopping it.

For such an important character, Gertrude is noticeably flat. Analysis

of the text of Hamlet provides few clues as to her involvement with

Claudius prior to King Hamlet's death, her knowledge or lack thereof

of his murder, or how she really feels about either of the kings.

Though Hamlet does not seek to punish her outright for whatever part

she may have played in his father's death, he does continually accuse

her of being generally amoral, especially with regard to her

incestuous marriage to Claudius. Hamlet's accusations are one of few

indicators throughout the play as to her character, and they

illustrate only Hamlet's perception thereof. It is conceivable that

Gertrude's motivations would not seem suspect at all if not for

Hamlet's continual insistence that she was not affected at all by King

Hamlet's death, and that her relationship with Claudius was

dishonorable. Because t...

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... perhaps her

most important contribution to the play.

Though never as thoroughly developed as most major characters, Queen

Gertrude is essential to the story of Hamlet. The vagueness of her

character helps create empathy for Hamlet's continual indecisiveness.

Her influence over all of the other main characters means that she

could have stopped the tragic series of events if she had been more

astute. The feeling of senselessness this preventability creates is

really the most tragic element of the play. Though Gertrude initially

seems overlooked in the creation of a whole cast of memorable and

vivid characters, it seems that Shakespeare intentionally created one

wild card. It is almost agonizing to attempt to understand who

Gertrude is, and in attempting to do so, one can truly begin to

comprehend Hamlet's anguish.
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