William Shakespeare's Hamlet Essay

William Shakespeare's Hamlet Essay

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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...


... middle of paper ...


... 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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