Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 1993 :: November ::
Re: Gertrude
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 4, No. 747.  Wed., 10 November 1993.
 
(1)     From:   Ann Dean <DEAN@ZODIAC.BITNET>
        Date:   Tuesday, 09 Nov 1993 10:50:14 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Gertrude
 
(2)     From:   Annalisa Castaldo <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Tuesday, 09 Nov 93 15:25:09 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 4.0730  Re: Gertrude
 
(3)     From:   David McFadden <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Tuesday, 9 Nov 1993 15:43:29 -0500
        Subj:   Re: Gertrude
 
(4)     From:   David Glassco <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Tuesday, 09 Nov 1993 22:50:42 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 4.0723  Re: Gertrude
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ann Dean <DEAN@ZODIAC.BITNET>
Date:           Tuesday, 09 Nov 1993 10:50:14 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Gertrude
 
Folks,
 
The discussion of Gertrude makes me realize that Carolyn Heilbrun's essay
*Hamlet's Mother* written sometime in the late 50s and reprinted recently in a
book with the same title, is still a valuable argument.  Critics often seem
inspired by the idea of a guilty woman to fantasize about Gertrude's sinfulness
and stupidity without much textual evidence.  Heilbrun argues that while
Gertrude is certainly sexual, there is no reason to assume that she is stupid.
Because our sense of what incest is has changed, it is important to try to
think clearly about what exactly Gertrude is guilty of, if in fact she is not
an accomplice in the murder.  Certainly, she does not feel as much grief as
would seem appropriate, and certainly she has an odd taste in second husbands.
But I think it is letting our identification with Hamlet run away with us to go
on and on, as he does, about her guilt, embellishing it with our own ideas of
what she must have been like.
 
Ann Dean
Rutgers U.
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Annalisa Castaldo <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tuesday, 09 Nov 93 15:25:09 EST
Subject: 4.0730  Re: Gertrude
Comment:        Re: SHK 4.0730  Re: Gertrude
 
For what it's worth the Q1 version of *Hamlet* (which many people believe to
have at least some connection with a staged version of the Q2F version; editors
often appropriate the fuller stage directions of Q1) is very clear about
Gertrude's lack of guilt.
 
I don't have a copy of the text with me, so I can't provide exact quotes. But
in the closet scene, Gertrude asks Hamlet to believe that she never knew of the
murder, and promises that she will protect his secret and aid him. Later, in a
scene uniqe to the First Quarto, Horatio and Gertrude meet so that Horatio can
tell her that he has received word of Hamlet's return from England. She again
clearly declares her loyalty to her son and her intention to help him if
possible.
 
There is no proof (and much debate) about Q1's relationship to the text we call
*Hamlet*. But if it does represent an acting tradition current with the play,
then this view of Gertrude should, perhaps, hold some sway with us now.
 
Annalisa Castaldo
Temple University
V796CF01
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David McFadden <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tuesday, 9 Nov 1993 15:43:29 -0500
Subject:        Re: Gertrude
 
Further to Gertrude: Northrop Frye in *On Shakespeare* says that, in the
First Quarto, Gertrude "explicitly states that she knew nothing of Hamlet
senior's murder." In an age when it wasn't unusual for kings to be murdered
by usurpers (for Darwinian reasons, as has been suggested, though not by Frye
to my knowledge), to ensure the realm is in the strongest hands, Claudius'
guilt seems maybe not so great, particularly since he is courteous enough (and
wise enough) not to burden Gertrude with all this added unpleasantness.
Perhaps this was spelled out more fully in Kyd's Hamlet, which would have
been fresh in theatre-goers' minds, and if so it may explain why Shakespeare
didn't feel bound to get into the question in his version. If Gertrude simply
accepts that it was a convenient death by snakebite, and is clever enough not
to want to pry any further, then perhaps the same might be said for everyone
else at court, except of course for Hamlet, whose naivete forces the
appearance of the aggrieved Ghost--all of which gives added strength to an
"Oedipal" interpretation of Hamlet's actions, and ensures that the play
remains more interesting than, say, The Postman Always Rings Twice. It also
makes Polonius seem even more of a dunce, when he keeps assuring Claudius
that Hamlet's strange behaviour is on account of his love for Ophelia.
 
David W. McFadden
 
(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Glassco <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tuesday, 09 Nov 1993 22:50:42 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 4.0723  Re: Gertrude
Comment:        Re: SHK 4.0723  Re: Gertrude
 
In response to Kimberly Nolan's questions: does anyone else feel as I do that
the interesting question here has to do with Hamlet Sr.? And the observation
one might make there is that he smells a bit--sexually speaking--like a priss.
Don't we begin to suspect that for him *all* lust is/was "shameful"?  He speaks
of Claudius' lust and compares it to his love which "was of that dignity/ That
it went hand in hand even with the vow/ I made to her in marriage..." Dignity
in the marriage bed...no wonder she was tempted by Claudius!
 
How do we take the ensuing six lines? "But virtue, as it never will be
moved/Though lewdness court it in a shape of heaven, /So lust, though to a
radiant angel linked,/Will sate itself in a celestial bed/ And prey on
garbage." Doesn't that sound interestingly priggish? (Where does Ham sr. see
himself in that cluster of images? As a "radiant angel"? What is going on in
that "celestial bed" that even satiety will not suffice?)
 
Claudius is the Kissinger of his time...he loves handling power and power is
sexy. Gertrude's guilts are about neither incest nor adultery but about being
attracted sexually to her dead husband's brother--an attraction that reminds
her of absences (and presences!) she cannot think about or articulate.
 
My sense is that Ham jr is quite like his old man. He doesn't like power, and
he seems to be to be a sexual innocent. His "dirty" talk to Ophelia smacks of
bravado and inexperience (cf Hot and Kate in 1HIV)
 
Does any of this sound plausible to anyone...or have I simply been marking too
many essays?
 
David Glassco
trentu.ca
 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.