Gertrude’s Role Analysis in the Play Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Prince Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude is by far one of the most significant and influential female figures in the play. As Queen in the Kingdom of Denmark is revered by her subjects and wields a considerable amount of power: “I will not speak with her.” (Shakespeare, 2014, 4.5.1). In crafting this particular character, William Shakespeare was making an apparent attempt at portraying female characters in a manner rarely seen in 17th-century literature. During this epoch, Queen Elizabeth I of England was at the helm of power in England during a staunch patriarchal age. It’s for this very reason that the playwright sees it fit to use these strong values to create Gertrude’s character and in elucidating the central role she plays in the kingdom.

Gertrude finds herself in a challenging position where she is apparently expected to express her loyalty to those closest to her. She, therefore, plays an integral role in representing the feminine struggle to maintain commitments in a word wrought with complexities. Even in the midst of these convolutions, it’s still perceptible that Gertrude is still loyal to her late husband and his memory. During one of her conversations with Hamlet, she refers to the late king as “thy noble father”, a clear indication of the immense respect that she still had for him and fidelity to his memory. Although she marries her husband’s murder, it’s not clear whether she was aware of the intrigues that led to his death and whether Claudius was responsible. All in all, she remains loyal to her new husband as required of her.

From the play, it is also worth noting that Gertrude shares a special relationship with her son Hamlet. She perfectly plays the role of a caring mother, and there is no doubt that she is looking out for him. The primary reason why she allowed Guildenstern and Rosencrantz to act as her spies was due the fact that she loved her son deeply and wanted to find out what it was that was troubling her son. She values her son greatly, and proves her loyalty when she chooses to drink from the poisoned goblet instead spending the remainder of her existence filled with guilt. Furthermore, even when confronted with stressful situations such as meeting Ophelia, who was considered mad, she still exhibits compassion and treats her with respect: “Let her come in.” (Shakespeare, 2014, 4.5.21)

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