Angela Pitt in “Women in Shakespeare’s Tragedies” comments that Shakespeare’s Gertrude in Hamlet is, first and foremost, a mother:
Gertrude evinces no such need to justify her actions and thereby does not betray any sense of guilt. She is concerned with her present good fortune, and neither lingers over the death of her first husband nor analyses her motives in taking another. . . .She seems a kindly, slow-witted, rather self-indulgent woman, in no way the emotional or intellectual equal of her son. . . . Certainly she is fond of Hamlet. Not only is she prepared to listen to him when he storms at her, proof that he is sufficiently close to her to have a right to make comments on her personal life, but she is unfailingly concerned about him. . . .When she has drunk from the poisoned cup, almost her last words are: ‘O my dear Hamlet!’ The simple endearment is very poignant, reminding us that the bond between mother and son, and Hamlet’s desperate jealousy of Claudius, account for as much of the tragic progress of the play as the need to avenge old Hamlet’s death (46-47).
Is Gertrude a mother first, and queen second? This essay hopes to resolve seeming contradictions in the character of Queen Gertrude, as well as dealing with other aspects of her multi-faceted character.
At the outset of the tragedy Hamlet appears dressed in solemn black. His mother, Gertrude, is apparently disturbed by this and requests of him:
Good Hamlet, cast thy nighted colour off,
And let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark.
Do not for ever with thy vailed lids
Seek for thy noble father in the dust:
Thou know'st 'tis common; ...
... middle of paper ...
...'s Hamlet." Early Modern Literary Studies 6.1 (May, 2000): 2.1-24 <URL: http://purl.oclc.org/emls/06-1/lehmhaml.htm>.
Pitt, Angela. “Women in Shakespeare’s Tragedies.” Readings on The Tragedies. Ed. Clarice Swisher. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1996. Reprint of Shakespeare’s Women. N.p.: n.p., 1981.
Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 1995. http://www.chemicool.com/Shakespeare/hamlet/full.html
Smith, Rebecca. “Gertrude: Scheming Adulteress or Loving Mother?” Readings on Hamlet. Ed. Don Nardo. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1999. Rpt. of “Hamlet”: A User’s Guide. New York: Limelight Editions, 1996.
Wilkie, Brian and James Hurt. “Shakespeare.” Literature of the Western World. Ed. Brian Wilkie and James Hurt. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1992.
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