The Character of Gertrude in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Book Review Example

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Book Review

Background of Character

Although Gertrude was defined as Hamlet’s mother in the novel, it could be realized that her characterization is vaguely represented in the story. Most often than not, analyzing her characterization could well be dependent on how others speak about her in the story and what particular plots where she placed in to make a worthy definition of what her real worth is in the life of Hamlet. Noted to be the wife of Claudius, a powerful man of the novel, it is implicated that Gertrude to shares a particular aspect of authority in consideration with that of her husband’s. Defiance, pretentions and specific considerations to manipulation of situations, Gertrude was defined by Hamlet to be a woman who formerly was known for her obedience, however because of political reasons, she becomes defiant of the very man she used to support as her husband. The description over Gertrude’s character is obviously detection on how women can manipulate situations according to their own plan and seemingly direct people depending on how they might want the people to react to the situations that they tend to manipulate.

Personality

What makes a woman is her attitude and her character towards her man and her family. Nevertheless, this fact has been repeatedly represented and changed along the plot of Hamlet. The severe changes in the attitude and perception of Gertrude from being the wife of Claudius’ brother to becoming his have made a specific implication on the worth of Gertrude’s womanhood and her character’s impact on the being of Hamlet himself. Several times, Hamlet referred to his mother Gertrude as a “woman of frailty” probably redefining the idea that Gertrude was once a woman of independence but as she changed her course, it seemed that she was one woman who cannot survive without the support of a man. The transition from being independent to highly codependent with a man who rules the land seemingly confuses the readers as to what Gertrude actually represents; is it womanhood as it is, or is it the political bearing of those who simply would want to those who are in authority and share with the power that they have over the society? Either way, the representation of Gertrude’s being in the story remains relatively ambiguous especially in terms with her relative connection to Hamlet as the mother who bore life to an intelligent man.

Knowing that her current husband was the one who killed her former raises a question on whether or not being married to Claudius was a plot or a mere sense of cheating on her part. It could be observed that in the story, Gertrude once called her husband Claudius as “that incestuous and adulterate beast” (1.5.9). Understandably, this line might suggest that her connection with Claudius was first introduced through the emergence of seduction on the part of the man or it could have been a mutual feeling that both shared even when Old Hamlet was still standing as Gertrude’s sworn husband. This could be further confirmed when the ghost told Hamlet the lines:

Ay, 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 to his shameful lust

The will of my most seeming-virtuous queen

-(I.V.42-5)

In the course of insisting her involvement with an adulterous relationship with Claudius during the time when her first husband was still alive, it could be noticed how she could also be accused of murdering her own husband or at least being an accessory to it. Being involved with Claudius gives her all the motive she needs to desire for her husband’s death. However, it could be realized that in act one, scene four, she was surprised of the accusation that was being placed upon her head when the investigation over her husband’s death has been commenced. This could be proven when she said:

What have I done, that thou darest wag thy tongue

In noise so rude against me?- Act 3 Scene 4

Later on she adds:

O Hamlet, speak no more:

Thou turn’st mine eyes into my very soul;

And there I see such black and grained spots

As will not leave their tinct.- Act 3 Scene 4

 Relatively, another question then arises, could it be that she was seemingly surprised with an essential sense of sincerity, or could it be that she was merely pretending to not know of what happened to make sure that her transgressions over the matter would be perfectly covered? Hamlet further points this out as he said:

O, speak to me no more;

These words, like daggers, enter in mine ears;

No more, sweet Hamlet!- Act 3 Scene 4

 These queries entail to manage how the readers would see the real worth and character of the woman who seems to have either manipulated the whole situation or in some point could appear to be a mere victim of the matter.

In the end of the novel, Gertrude was shown to have drunken a poisoned wine. Did she know about the fact that it was poisoned and it was intended for her son to drink? If she did, then this would mean that she did save Hamlet from certain death, but if she did not, then her value would be specifically defined as a victim who accidentally saved a life.

Dramatic Purpose

In examining the role of Gertrude in the play, even though she did not have as much lines as a main character is expected to have in a story, she was represented all throughout the novel noting her value to the whole narrative. Being a woman, her worth is rather placed under the authoritative course of representing the men and their worth to the story. Nevertheless, her characterization and the situations she has been involved in shows how important she is especially in defining how each setting turned out to be connected to the other.

The confusion over the real motive of Gertrude over the decisions she has made as a woman married to a man of valor and authority is intended to play with the minds of the readers and the audience as they try to decipher how she becomes the main player that demands the condition by which situations are turning out in the story. The evolving character of Gertrude from being an obedient wife to becoming an accused adulterer and later on a great mother who sacrificed her own life to save her son’s specifically impose the course of changes that humans tend to acquire when they face different challenges in life.

Basically her characterization and her attitude towards the plots and the arrangements of the story specifically created all the necessary conflicts and situational changes among the other characters in the narrative. Gertrude’s value to the story is more of a binding element that connects the life of Claudius and Hamlet allowing them to cross paths and be in connection with each other.

Conclusion

The symbolism and representations that Gertrude’s character was supposed to implicate alongside the setting and the plot of the story are specifically directed towards the need to make the audience think. This then insists on the fact that the audience need to reflect on themselves and direct their analysis towards the being of Gertrude and how she practically reflects human nature when it comes to dealing with crucial stages of decision making that insists on one’s need to make uncanny resolutions that at some point makes them look like the culprit when they really are the victims. There are instances when sacrifices are made so as to make sure that the ones who are valuable to an individual’s life receive the kind of life they think they deserve.

References

Introduction to Gertrude. http://www.shakespeare-online.com/playanalysis/gertrudechar.html. (Retrieved on May 6, 2012).

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