Gertrude - a lightweight? : LUSENET : Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet : One Thread

Is the character of Gertrude a weak victim of the male characters in the play and indeed of male dominated literature or is she an astute polititian sensitive to her son's delicate position at cour

-- jerry (, October 22, 1999


I would have to say that both Gertrude and Ophelia are, for the most part, oppressed by a male-dominated play. We never really get a sense of who Gertrude is because she doesn't say much -- I think Branagh mentioned that she has less to say than the 1st gravedigger. We only get information about her from Hamlet, who obviously doesn't have an unbiased opinion on the subject. What can she possibly do?

As to the "astute politician" argument, I just don't see with Gertrude. Running off to tell Claudius of Hamlet's "madness" right after he tells her not to isn't quite being sensitive to H.'s "delicate" position at court.

What do you think?

-- Virginia (, October 28, 1999.

Gertrude, like so many others is a victim of old Hamlet's murder. Was the marriage to Claudius political? Maybe. After all, being the queen is a good gig if you can come by it. Could she have been protecting Hamlet from the stress of the crown until he was older? Maybe. Could she have been protecting Denmark from Hamlet until he was older? Maybe. Or maybe she was really bumming about old H. and saw something of him in Claudius. In any case, this is not a play about strong, stable, and virtuous people (always excepting Horatio, of course). What Gertrude is, is a mother. And while she is flawed, she does believe, at least in part, Hamlet's "mad in craft" confession and lies to Claudius ("mad as the sea and wind") to protect him. She does exactly as he asks by not letting on that his lunacy is of his own design. So, to get back to the question, Gertrude is a victim, but only of her own flaws, just as Polonius, Laertes, and all the others are victims of their flaws, bad choices, and errors in judgement. They all end up just as dead.

-- mikken (, October 30, 1999.

Right on Mikken. But I really don't think the marriage was political. That Gertrude has so little to say is, I think, a deliberate reflection of her character - or lack of it. She is influenced, not influential. And both she and Ophelia are certainly gentle women overwhelmed by a man's world. Such was life, and women were supposed to be passive.

But she does grow slightly through the play. She begins by always agreeing with Claudius, obeying him, following his lead. But come III.iv, Hamlet forces a choice on her, and she makes it herself and sticks to it in IV.i as Mikken has outlined, lying to Claudius for Hamlet. In IV.v she doesn't want to speak with Ophelia but brings herself to face doing it; and under excitement she tries to protect Claudius form Laertes, probably physically endangering herself. In IV.vii she finds the moral guts to tell Laertes of Ophelia's death. In V.ii, for the first time she actually initiates something, even though it is minor, desiring Hamlet "to use some gentle entertainment to Laertes". And in this scene she finally definitely stands up to Claudius, drinking when he tells her not to.

She done a bad thing, but like her son she learns and grows through the consequences of it.

-- catherine england (, December 06, 2001.

Come to think of it, maybe Gerty was protecting Denmark et al from her son, who she could have known was a bit off. Marrying Claudius and solidifying that claim could have kept Hamlet off the throne until he "found himself", a common enough adolescent phase.

Or, depending how one reads the bedroom scene between G & H perhaps there was some "non-standard" sex between them, and she wanted to keep it going. Allowing Ophelia to drown by inaction would not then seem out of place.

She is often portrayed as an airhead (viz: Julie Christie in Mel Gibson's version) but I can not see a survivor in those times (whichever times they were) being slow on the uptake: Look at Henry 8th's way of dealing with women who were really not too dumb, in most cases.

Well, it is late and I must log off. I hear the flights of angels coming to sing me to my sleep. (Or is that an F16 on patrol?)

PS: Succession?!?!?!?! The way the Afganistan guys are fighting over the spoils seem positively medeival and makes the end of Hamlet gentle and serene. That seems like a REAL time warp glimpse into the murky past! "Plus choses changes, plus choses restes la meme" Excuse the mangled Fr spelling)

I am glad I found this Forum. Too bad Phil G. may have to abandon it.

Lucky WS didn't know about AK47s, B 52s and land mines.

-- RICHARD ILOMAKI (, December 10, 2001.

Comme si les travers de la famille humaine Ne rejeunissaient pas chaque an, chaque semaine.


I'm sorry, aloof in giant ignorance: who is Phil G.?

-- catherine england (, December 14, 2001.

I believe Phil G. must be the name of one of the Gravediggers. Since the name sounds rather clownish, my theory is correct.

-- An Expert In Hamlet (, March 16, 2004.

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