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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: October ::
Re: Hamlet
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.1845  Thursday, 28 October 1999.

[1]     From:   John Nettles <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 27 Oct 1999 12:18:46 -0400
        Subj:   RE: SHK 10.1842 Re: Hamlet

[2]     From:   H. R. Greenberg <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 27 Oct 1999 18:53:25 EDT
        Subj:   TWILIGHT and Gertrude, was Re: SHK 10.1842 Re: Hamlet

[3]     From:   Richard Regan <
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        Date:   Thursday, 28 Oct 1999 00:01:33 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1842 Re: Hamlet


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Nettles <
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Date:           Wednesday, 27 Oct 1999 12:18:46 -0400
Subject: 10.1842 Re: Hamlet
Comment:        RE: SHK 10.1842 Re: Hamlet

>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.

It is worth noting that Denmark here is an elective monarchy. The people
have decided to make Claudius king, as later they will call,
unfathomably, for Laertes to be king. Therefore it is unlikely that
Gertrude would have had a chance to rule, even if she wanted to. On the
other hand, the electorate was also needed to sanction Claudius'
marriage to Gertrude, as Claudius indicates in his long-winded address
in I.ii. Thus it may be possible that the remarriage was a necessary
condition of Claudius' ascension.

This is, of course, largely speculative, but I've always had problems
with the notion that Gertrude was somehow this airhead with an
overactive libido. She demonstrates considerable strength and compassion
in all of her dealings with Ophelia, certainly more than any man in the
play does. Furthermore, one wonders just how high such a weak creature
as Gertrude is supposed to be would sit in the estimation of old Hamlet
and the people of Denmark in general.  Gertrude must be a woman worth
the love of Hyperion, or that aspect of the play makes no sense.

John Nettles

John G. Nettles
Instructor, Dept. of Language and Literature
North Georgia College and State University

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           H. R. Greenberg <
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Date:           Wednesday, 27 Oct 1999 18:53:25 EDT
Subject: Gertrude, was Re: SHK 10.1842 Re: Hamlet
Comment:        TWILIGHT and Gertrude, was Re: SHK 10.1842 Re: Hamlet

I haven't been following the Gertrude thread, but am I not wrong in
supposing a powerful amount of scholarship has indicated, on good
assumption, the strong possibility that Gertrude has cuckolded Hamlet 1
with his brother before Claudius kills H1? I've also heard it argued
quite persuasively that in killing Hamlet 1, Claudius is carrying
Gertrude's at least unconscious wishes to have that formidable but quite
possibly icy husband out of the way.

This does not make Gertrude sui generis loathsome, but it sure renders
her character ulcerous to borrow her son's terminology. She is as best
played capable of a great deal of courtliness in the best and worst
sense of that word, as is her husband; and also of an unfeigned
gentleness. Character is complex, and should be complexly played so as
to elicit a variety of emotions.

By the by, if you want to see a real Gertrude like character, take a
look at Susan Sarendon's wonderful portrayal of an aging, glamorous
movie star married to the director (also well played by Gene Hackman)
with whom she shared complicity in her lst husband's death-the film is
TWILIGHT by Robert Benton I believe, or is it Robert Townes, and the
Hamlet part in this case is played by an ex-lover her own age, amazingly
well portrayed by Paul Newman. A sleeper to savor, with strong
Shakespearean overtones.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Carol Barton <
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Date:           Wednesday, 27 Oct 1999 21:13:25 EDT
Subject: 10.1842 Re: Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1842 Re: Hamlet

Perry Herzfeld sees Gertrude as "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. .  . . Gertrude for me," he says, " is not an object of
loathing for her inaction; nor is she an object of disgust because of
her lust.  I feel genuinely sorry for her."

You are of course entitled to your pity, Perry, but you take the line
you paraphrase quite out of context: Gertrude's heart is cleft by the
stinging indictment she has tried to pass off as Hamlet's madness
("Mother, for love of grace, lay not that flattering unction to your
soul"-III.iv.144-5), his virtue of her vice pardon begging for the
assault- to which her only other response is the same as that of another
Amazonian paragon of virtue, Scarlett O'Hara, when Margaret Mitchell's
Rhett Butler walks out of her self-serving life for the last time: "What
shall I do?" (III.iv.180) -- one almost automatically inserts the
characteristic "ever."  Her "loyalty" her son is to declare him mad,
"mad as the sea and wind, when both contend / Which is the mightier" in
the very next scene (IV,i.29-30) prompting Claudius to banish him
immediately ("the sun no sooner shall the mountains touch / But we will
ship him hence"): in response to which she doesn't say a word.

This the "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"?  God defend me from such
mothers, and such wives.

Carol Barton

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Richard Regan <
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Date:           Thursday, 28 Oct 1999 00:01:33 EDT
Subject: 10.1842 Re: Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1842 Re: Hamlet

It's interesting to watch Glenn Close as Gertrude in the Zeffirelli
Hamlet.  She is giddy and dependent, but grows into maturity and horror,
especially as she sees Ophelia unravel.

Richard Regan
Fairfield University
 

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