The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.1842 Wednesday, 27 October 1999.
From: Perry Herzfeld <
Date: Wednesday, 27 Oct 1999 23:24:31 +1000
Subject: 10.1825 Re: Hamlet
Comment: Re: SHK 10.1825 Re: Hamlet
It is quite curious that Carol Barton feels so repulsed by Gertrude,
although I have found that response in several other people I have
spoken to. I think in Gertrude we see a quiet, patient, biddable mother
and caring wife, who after her son’s violent accusations in her
chamber and murder of Polonius, stays loyal to him by adhering to his
wishes. If anything she is a woman caught miserably at the centre of a
desperate struggle between two ‘mighty opposites’, her
‘heart cleft in twain’ (III. iv. 156) by divided loyalties
to husband and son. She loves both Claudius and Hamlet, and their
conflict leaves her bewildered and unhappy.
A complaint, loving and unimaginative woman, she is a product of her
time who marries Claudius, we assume, because of the dependent
personality that is forced upon her. What would the alternative be? She
could rule, but she does not strike one as a firm, warrior-woman that
this society needs, particularly when Norway is threatening.
Alternatively she could retire and go to a nunnery. Politically, this
would be a disaster, although Hamlet may appreciate it. Considering her
choices and responsibilities, she actually makes the common sense choice
without being aware of the complete story.
Gertrude for me is not an object of loathing for her inaction; nor is
she an object of disgust because of her lust. I feel genuinely sorry