The Importance Of Gertrude In Shakespeare's Hamlet

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In discussing the importance of Gertrude in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, it is important to first analyze her character. Critics often view this queen as a weak female character whose dependence on her husband renders her nearly useless. Through analysis of Gertrude’s speeches and actions throughout the play, it is evident that her character more closely resembles that of a strong, clear-headed, independent, and manipulative woman, yet still flawed in that she gives heed to her sexual passions and marries Claudius.
Gertrude’s hasty marriage to Claudius draws the most criticism of her character. In a modern sense, society generally frowns upon improperly mourning the death of your husband and then quickly turning around and marrying his brother. However,
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This fault forms the basis for both Hamlet’s and the Ghost of Old Hamlet’s convictions of her and Claudius’ acts of incest and adultery. In Heilbrun’s literary criticism of Gertrude’s character, she agrees that the queen’s biggest flaw, her lust, carries great importance in the plot; however, Gertrude’s passion and lust should not define her character, as she also exhibits depth and intelligence throughout the majority of the play. I agree with this criticism; Gertrude conveys herself as a passionate woman whose lust drives her to hastily marry Claudius following Old Hamlet’s death, thus flawing her character and deeming her as dependent upon her husband(s). During the closet scene, Hamlet points out to the queen that her need for sexual passion has driven her from Old Hamlet, the “Hyperion” (3.4.66), to her new husband, “like a mildewed ear” (3.4.74), and that she has abandoned logic and reason in exchange for indulgence into these passions. Gertrude makes no objection to his accusations, proclaiming “Thou turn’st my eyes into my very soul / And there I see such black and grained spots / As will not leave their tinct” (3.4.100-102). The queen’s admission of guilt shows both acceptance of her flawed character and, as Heilbrun puts it, “[her] ability to see reality clearly, and to express it. This talent is not lost when turned upon herself.” Ultimately, Gertrude’s passions weigh her down, but her recognition of this flaw helps her character develop into that of an intelligent, reasonable

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