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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: January ::
Re: Pregnant Gertrude

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0025  Saturday, 5 January 2002

[1]     From:   Dana Shilling <
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        Date:   Friday, 4 Jan 2002 13:00:23 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0018 Pregnant Gertrude

[2]     From:   Abigail Quart <
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        Date:   Friday, 4 Jan 2002 13:06:03 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 13.0018 Pregnant Gertrude

[3]     From:   Joe Wagner <
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        Date:   Friday, 4 Jan 2002 12:20:26 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0018 Pregnant Gertrude

[4]     From:   Clifford Stetner <
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        Date:   Friday, 4 Jan 2002 16:59:55 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0018 Pregnant Gertrude

[5]     From:   Andy White <
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        Date:   Friday, 4 Jan 2002 17:35:20 -0500
        Subj:   Pregnant Gertrude

[6]     From:   Don Bloom <
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        Date:   Saturday, 5 Jan 2002 10:08:02 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0018 Pregnant Gertrude


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Dana Shilling <
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Date:           Friday, 4 Jan 2002 13:00:23 -0500
Subject: 13.0018 Pregnant Gertrude
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0018 Pregnant Gertrude

Ivan Fuller said,

>Here's one for all the creative minds out there...I'll be directing
>"Hamlet" this summer and just found out that the woman I've cast as
>Gertrude will be 8 months pregnant when we open.
>[...] Everyone just assumed the child was the late King's,
>but now Hamlet is seeing Claudius being extremely affectionate, not only
>to Gertrude, but to the baby in her womb.  "You double-bastard!" thinks
>Hamlet and his inner turmoil takes on an even greater intensity.

>I'd love to hear what others think about this idea and what other
>possible benefits or ill side-effects, might be the result.

Considering that Hamlet is 30 years old, that argues a rather long
period of fertility for poor Gertrude...even if Lady Capulet is right
about 13-year-old Juliet that “younger than she are happy mothers made.”

Dana Shilling

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Abigail Quart <
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Date:           Friday, 4 Jan 2002 13:06:03 -0500
Subject: 13.0018 Pregnant Gertrude
Comment:        RE: SHK 13.0018 Pregnant Gertrude

Goodness. Well, the "heyday in the blood is tame" may get laughs.

But it could answer the “why now” question that’s always bothered me.
When other people talked about Hamlet’s procrastination, I wondered
about Claudius’. Why DID he kill his brother when he did?

And it adds an extra level of betrayal for Hamlet. Gertrude is replacing
not only the father but the son as well.

It also makes Hamlet's safety more problematical. If a son is born, who
needs him?

But it doesn’t necessarily mean adultery on Gertrude’s part. If she is
pregnant (now the heir will have a spare) after all these years,
Claudius’ claim would become that much more distant. Could frighten him
into murder.  For Gertrude, being pregnant on her husband’s death means
having a life other than her own to protect. A convent, normally an
option for widows,  is not so good  for her now. Marrying Claudius may
be her way to protect the inheritance for her children.

Lots of ways to play it. With the caveat that a pregnancy pretty much
trumps anything else dramatically. Gertrude’s death will likely be a lot
bigger than Hamlet's because the future will die with her instead of
him.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Joe Wagner <
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Date:           Friday, 4 Jan 2002 12:20:26 -0800
Subject: 13.0018 Pregnant Gertrude
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0018 Pregnant Gertrude

For some hypothetical “background,” I’d recommend John Updike’s
_Gertrude and Claudius_ for explorations of their love and the ways it
may have been flourishing long before the death of Hamlet’s father.

Joseph Wagner
Kent State University
Stark Campus

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Clifford Stetner <
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Date:           Friday, 4 Jan 2002 16:59:55 -0500
Subject: 13.0018 Pregnant Gertrude
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0018 Pregnant Gertrude

If I saw the production without knowing better, I might think you were
trying to emphasize the intertextual relationship between the suspicion
of adultery in Hamlet and that in the first part of the The Winter’s
Tale.  In that play, the pseudo brother Polixenes has been reported to
be in Sicily for nine months when Hermione gives birth. In Hamlet the
time since the king’s death is reported to be two or three months (a
little short of your queen’s apparent condition).  It would also add
interesting implications to the whole question of Hamlet’s designation
as Claudius’ successor and suggest motives for Claudius assassination
plot beyond those explicitly acknowledged in the text.  I would probably
also notice that the Claudio of Measure for Measure is dragging a
pregnant woman around with him raising the question as to what
punishment such an indiscretion really deserves.

Clifford

PS: A pregnant gravedigger also strikes me as a fascinating icon against
Hamlet's contemplation of Yorick's skull.

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Andy White <
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Date:           Friday, 4 Jan 2002 17:35:20 -0500
Subject:        Pregnant Gertrude

First, -- congratulations on the new arrival!  Here’s hoping your
Gertrude won’t have to deal with an extended run, or worse yet won’t
find herself forced to give birth before the due-date.  That’s something
you should plan for, by the way -- at the very least, get yourself an
understudy.  (Is it possible to stage it earlier?  Had to ask. . .)

As for how to deal with Gertrude's 'condition:' frankly, it sounds like
too big a complication.  Hamlet is looking at a potential new heir in
his mom's womb, and if you include (as you should) the Ghost's news that
Gertrude was unfaithful, the identity of the father would be all too
clear -- Claudius.  That would force you to add lines that might unhinge
the basic matters of incest, infidelity and succession to the throne
already in the play.

By all means keep her in the cast, but find ways to costume her so as
_not_ to call attention to her pregnancy.  The audience will, I’m sure,
be willing to go along with her as Gertrude and won’t bother itself with
her real-life pregnancy.  And please consider an understudy, so that her
present willingness to go ahead with the role doesn’t turn into an
unforeseen burden later on.

And check out the sonnet that begins “Who will believe my verse in time
to come?” -- it came in handy for the announcement of my own child’s
birth a few years back.

Best wishes,
Andy White

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Don Bloom <
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Date:           Saturday, 5 Jan 2002 10:08:02 -0600
Subject: 13.0018 Pregnant Gertrude
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0018 Pregnant Gertrude

On the pregnant Gertrude,

I generally disapprove of distorting what I take to be the central plot
idea(s) of Shakespeare’s work (or anyone else’s), but I find the idea of
a pregnant Gertrude fascinating.

You must accept the fact that it will make the play vastly more
political.  In the “normal” *Hamlet*, the title character has the upper
hand because he’s all that’s left of the royal family. His uncle cannot
afford to move against him until driven to by fear for his own safety
(and/or the realization that Hamlet has, against all odds, figured out
his crime). With an alternate heir, especially one produced by the
reigning king, Hamlet becomes more expendable -- becomes, in fact,
something that the king would want to get rid of, rather than “anoint”
as successor.

I would want to read over all relevant passages very carefully and maybe
do some judicious pruning to make this politically charged version more
in tune with the text. The purists (like myself in most moods) will
squawk, but it can be a helluva play -- even if it isn’t exactly
*Hamlet*.

Good luck,
don

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