A haunted-by-the-past Prince Hamlet seeks the truth about his father's death. A live-in-the-moment Queen Gertrude seeks to protect her second husband and throne.
Three 1,500-word model essays on the relationship of Prince Hamlet and Queen Gertrude in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
She seeks to smooth over everything without thinking too deeply; he cannot but think deeply about everything.
The prisoner of Elsinore
Gertrude colludes with Claudius in blocking Hamlet’s return to Wittenberg.
The player queen
Gertrude’s lack of empathy prevents her from identifying with the fictional character of the Player Queen.
The chapel and the closet
Hamlet wants to rescue his mother’s soul before he can condemn his uncle’s to hell.
Departure and return
Haunted by the “guilt” in her “sick soul”, Gertrude welcomes her son’s return: “Hamlet, Hamlet!”
In his farewell, Hamlet extends forever in hell the marriage of his “aunt-mother” with his “uncle-father”.
No two figures in Hamlet are further apart in character and outlook than Prince Hamlet and his mother, Queen Gertrude. He is an anguished seeker of truth and meaning; she a contented, status-loving throne occupant.
Hamlet torments himself that his continual “Looking before and after” (4.4) is but an excuse for cowardice. The live-in-the-moment Gertrude (“all that is I see … / Nothing but ourselves”, 3.4) is puzzled why her son struggles to do the same.
What Gertrude admits is her “o’erhasty marriage” (2.2) to her brother-in-law Claudius overshadows the relationship between mother and son. Ultimately, it dooms both their lives and brings to an end the royal dynasty of the Hamlet family.
Prince #Hamlet and Queen Gertrude: truth-seeker and live-in-the-moment materialist.
Old King Hamlet allowed his son to follow his chosen path in life as he awaited his time to occupy the throne. The Renaissance prince which Wittenberg University produced certainly impressed Ophelia as “the expectancy and rose of the fair state” (3.1).
Yet Gertrude colludes with her second husband in denying him what her first one granted. The woman who insists “Go not to Wittenberg” (1.2) seems in no need of emotional support from her only son. Only once does she seek him out. But even their encounter in her closet is not her initiative but another of Polonius’ surveillance operations (“Let queen mother all alone entreat him / To show his grief”, 3.1).
Gertrude colludes with Claudius’s watchful captivity of #Hamlet in the "prison" (2.2) of Denmark.
“Madam, how like you this play?” Hamlet’s pointed question of his mother follows the scene from The Murder of Gonzago in 3.2 when an about-to-be bereaved queen vows never to remarry: “pursue me lasting strife / If, once a widow, ever I be wife!”
But the self-absorbed Gertrude fails to recognise Hamlet’ public shaming her in his hope that, like Claudius, she might “proclaim” her “malefactions” (2.2).
Her response (“The lady protests too much”) reveals that she regards the play as mere entertainment. Her later complaint to the prince is not that she has been humiliated in front of the court but only that Claudius has been “much offended” (3.4).
'The Mousetrap': "hoodman-blind" (3.4) Gertrude is oblivious to #Hamlet's theatrical shaming of her.
Hamlet’s delay in pursuing the Ghost’s first demand (“Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder”) stems from his refusal to follow the second (“let thy soul contrive / Against thy mother aught. Leave her to heaven”, 1.5). In the chapel and closet scenes, we see that Hamlet’s purpose has evolved from mere revenge to another, more poignant one: to reunite in the afterlife his fractured-by-Claudius family of mother and father.
Hence the prince’s desire to rescue first his mother’s soul (“Confess yourself to heaven. / Repent what’s past. Avoid what is to come”, 3.4) before he can condemn his uncle’s to hell (“as damned and black / As hell, whereto it goes”, 3.3). He sees himself as “scourge and minister” respectively to his “uncle-father and aunt-mother” (2.2).
#Hamlet seeks to reunite in the afterlife his fractured-by-Claudius family of mother and father.
With Hamlet dispatched to England, Gertrude shows no sign of wavering in her relationship with Claudius. But however fearlessly she defends her role as the “beauteous majesty of Denmark” (4.5) against a sword-wielding, castle-storming Laertes, her crown provides no defense against the “guilt” she now feels in her “sick soul” (4.5).
Such is Gertrude’s joy on seeing her son again that she shouts out his name twice: “Hamlet, Hamlet!” (5.1). In his graveyard reflections, the prince recognizes the truth of his mother’s observation that “All that lives must die” (1.2). As he tells Horatio, “If it be not to come, it will be now. If it be not now, yet it will come—the readiness is all” (5.2).
Gertrude's retaining of her queenly role blocked Ophelia's "advancement" as much as Hamlet's.
In 5.2, Gertrude’s defiant drinking from the poisoned wine goblet (“I will, my lord. I pray you, pardon me”) and her damning contradiction of Claudius’ excuse for her fainting (“She swoons to see them bleed”) prompts Laertes’ confession (“The king’s to blame”) and Hamlet’s killing of the man who killed his father.
Not knowing about Laertes’ poison-tipped sword, Gertrude dies believing her last act on earth was to save the life of her son, with her cry: “Hamlet … the drink! I am poison’d.”
However, her son’s parting words to Claudius (“Follow my mother”) suggest it will be in the company of the prince’s villainous uncle rather than his murdered father that the “wretched queen” will be eternally united.
"Follow my mother" (5.2): #Hamlet unites forever in hell his "uncle-father and aunt-mother" (2.2).
Born a prince, parented by a jester, haunted by a ghost, destined to kill a king rather than become one, and remembered as both the tragic hero and victim of a story he did not want to be in.
His “ambition” for Denmark’s throne leads him to commit one murder only to find that he must plot a second to cover up the first. When this plan fails, his next scheme leads to the death of the woman he loves.
“Have you eyes?”, Prince Hamlet demands of his mother. Gertrude‘s “o’erhasty marriage” dooms her life and the lives of everyone around her when her wished-for, happy-ever-after fairytale ends in a bloodbath.
Ophelia’s sanity is overwhelmed by Elsinore’s maddening world of deception and betrayal. Her “self-slaughter” is her revenge against everyone who dismissed, silenced and humiliated her.
By surrendering Denmark to his rival’s son, Hamlet grants to the angry Ghost of his “dear father” the forgiveness his suffering soul needed more than the revenge he demanded.
The relationship between uncle and nephew begins with mutual suspicion and dislike, escalates into a psychological battle of wits and ends with defeat for both and victory for the rival kingdom of Norway.
Begins in uncertainty, descends into mutual deceit and rejection, and ends with their double surrender to death: she to the water, he to Claudius’ rigged fencing duel.
A genuine friendship in an Elsinore poisoned by betrayal. But does Hamlet exploit his friend’s loyalty with his improbable tale of divinely-inspired rescue by pirates?
A marriage of practical interest. Claudius wanted something (the kingship) he did not have; Gertrude had something (the role of queen) she wanted to hold onto.
Deception, revenge, madness, corruption, decay and death—all shaped by destiny. A prince is left with an impossible choice when his uncle chooses murder and his mother chooses self-delusion.
Two young men journey from revenge, through madness and anger, to forgiveness. An opportunist claims an empty throne. And a restless Ghost is granted atonement for his sins by his kingdom-surrendering son.
‘Seems’ and ‘is’ are as far apart as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are similar in a play-long triple pun on the verb ‘to act’: to take action, to play a false role, and to perform in theater.