Gertrude's Selfishness

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Date Submitted: 03/24/2013 04:53 PM

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Unlike other characters in William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” who develop and grow during the course of the tragedy, Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude, continues to act selfishly. Gertrude is a shallow, flighty, sensual woman, whose character is summarized by Hamlet in the words “Frailty, thy name is woman.” (Hamlet I, ii).Hamlet is referring to woman in general when saying this, but the comment is aimed directly at his own mother, Queen Gertrude. Hamlet, who is still mourning over the loss of his father, is bitter towards his mother. Hamlet is unhappy with the incestuous nature of his mother’s wedding to her dead husband's brother, Claudius. Hamlet insults not only his mother but the entire female gender, claiming that frailty and weakness are character flaws of all women.

Gertrude’s shallowness begins with her marriage to Claudius “but two months dead” (I, ii, 138), of her former husband King Hamlet. Because of Hamlet’s reaction to his mother’s quick marriage, it is obvious that Gertrude had not thought of, or considered, his feelings but only of her own. Hamlet mentions often in the play that Gertrude “married with my uncle, my father’s brother,” (I, ii, 151-153). “Within a month, ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears/ had left the flushing in her galled eye, She married,” (I, ii, 154-157). Her marriage hurts Hamlet deeply and more than any other character in the play. Each time that Hamlet and Gertrude speak, Hamlet provokes the situation of his mother’s hasty marriage. It emphasizes her selfishness to both her and Hamlet’s lives. When speaking to Hamlet, curious to know if has gone mad; Hamlet yells “mother, you have my father much offended,” (III, iv, 11). Again, he brings up the marriage which shows his distress to the situation. Gertrude’s shallow actions not only affect her life, but the lives of others as well.

Because of Hamlet’s loss of his father, Gertrude tries to force Hamlet to accept Claudius as a replacement father figure. Hamlet refuses which...