Analyzing the relationship between Hamlet and Gertrude reveals the complicated bond between a mother and son. Hamlet and Gertrude appear to have opposite personalities. Thus Hamlet is quick to judge his mother, especially after the closet scene with the ghost. Due to his negative assessment of his mother, Hamlet forms a bad opinion about women in general due to his mother’s expressive sexuality. Hamlet’s negative feelings about his mother are stronger than those of his father’s murderer. Hamlet and Gertrude have a complex relationship that is interesting to study.
Hamlet and his mother could not be more opposite. While Hamlet is a deep thinker, his mother tends to be more concerned about material things. Hamlet’s deep thoughts can be shown when he asks “To be, or not to be: that is the question?” (Shakespeare, Act III, Scene I). When Gertrude wants to marry Claudius, she changes the law to suit her needs. During the time of the play a quick marriage after a husband’s death was banned, but Gertrude was a queen and could change any law for her own benefit. Janet Adelman explains “Gertrude’s failure to differentiate has put an intolerable strain on Hamlet by making him the only repository of his father’s image, the only agent of differentiation in a court that seems all too willing to accept the new king in place of the old” (1992:13). After the ghost demands for vengeance, Hamlet tries to prove his point within the law. One example is the murdered king play he stages to prove Claudius’ guilt. Hamlet is a more spiritual soul. “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so” (Shakespeare, Act II, Scene II). Hamlet believes that his mother’s thoughts of wanting material items make her a bad mother along with her actions. The two could not have more diverse personalities.
When Gertrude marries soon after Hamlet’s father dies, Hamlet judges her harshly. Although Gertrude counters with a light take upon death, “All that lives must die, Passing through nature to eternity” (Shakespeare, Act 1, Scene 2). After her husband’s death, Gertrude’s sexuality becomes an issue with Hamlet. She was not supposed to be a sexual creature, but a mother to him. “But female sexuality in Hamlet is always maternal sexuality: Gertrude’s is the only fully sexualized female body in the play, and we experience her sexuality largely through the imagination of her son” (Adelman 1992:27). Hamlet wants his mother to have his moral fortitude. Hamlet accuses his mother in unfairness due to the absence of love and respect to her dead husband. Gertrude needed to remarry in order to feel safe and loved. Her feelings overrode Hamlet’s opinion. Thus Hamlet felt his mother chose Claudius and material objects over him. Gertrude’s perceived betrayal toward Hamlet made him feel rejected.
Hamlet’s view of women was clouded by his feelings for Gertrude. At the beginning of the play Hamlet gave a very interesting characteristic to his mother and her wrongdoings: “Frailty, thy name is a woman” (Shakespeare, Act 1, Scene 2). The attitude of Hamlet towards the representatives of the fair sex was formed as a result of the deeds of Queen Gertrude. After the conversation with a ghost Hamlet attitude towards his mother worsens. He even does not judge her as his own mother anymore, but as a woman, who betrayed a man. She turns into a plain woman in his eyes. Hamlet believed women were weak due to his mother’s actions. He considers women to be sinful, mean and weak creatures, “That blurs the grace and blush of modesty, Calls virtue hypocrite, takes off the rose From the fair forehead of an innocent love And sets a blister there” (Shakespeare Act 3, Scene 4 ). A woman’s sexuality, which women possess makes them weak. David Leverenz states “The fortress of the female heart needs its Bernardo’s. She will doubt her feelings henceforth” (1973:300). Hamlet believed that women act on personal sexuality instead of common sense based upon the Queen’s action after his father died.
After talking to the ghost Hamlet finds out his father was killed by Claudius. Hamlet promises not to be angry with Gertrude. However, it appears that he is especially concerned not about the deed of Claudius, but about the behavior of Gertrude. This anger towards Gertrude is reflected in the closet scene. Hamlet accuses his own mother not only in betraying his father but in destroying his own private life. After the closet scene Hamlet becomes even angrier as his mother cannot understand him properly or pretends: “What have I done, that thou darest wag thy tongue In noise so rude against me? (Shakespeare, Act 3, Scene 4). That Hamlet chose to confront his mother, but leave Claudius alive is telling. Hamlet was more upset with Gertrude than Claudius.
In the end, Gertrude does the honorable thing. She drinks the cup of poison, even after being warned. After the scene in the Queen’s closet, Gertrude feels bad. She even expresses to Hamlet “O Hamlet, speak no more! Thou turns my eyes into my very soul, And there I see such black and grained spots” Shakespeare, Act 3, Scene 4). Hamlet does not bother her again heeding to the ghost in the Queen’s closet. Still, the words haunted Queen Gertrude. She kills herself to Hamlet’s horror. Gertrude tries to redeem herself in death.
The interaction between Hamlet and Gertrude reveals the complicated relationship between a mother and son. Hamlet and Gertrude give the impression of being opposite souls. Gertrude is then seen as being a bad mother. Hamlet then sees women through Gertrude’s shadow. All women are weak and bad according to Hamlet due to his mother’s expression of sexuality. The negative feelings against his mother are stronger than for his father’s killer, Claudius. Hamlet and Gertrude have a complex relationship that is interesting to study.
Adelman, Janet. Suffocating Mothers: Fantasies of Maternal Origin in Shakespeare’s Plays,
“Hamlet” to “The Tempest.” New York: Routledge, 1992. Print.
Leverenz, David. “The woman in Hamlet: an interpersonal view.” Signs 4.2 (1978): 291-308.
Online. Accessed from http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/3173027?uid=3739848&uid=2&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=21104765017891 on 4 Dec. 2014.
Shakespeare, William, ed. Barnet, Sylvan. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark,
Signet Classics, 2009. Print.