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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: December ::
Psychology of Gertrude
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.2455  Wednesday, 31 December 2003

[1]     From:   Annalisa Castaldo <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 30 Dec 2003 10:05:16 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.2448 Psychology of Gertrude

[2]     From:   Abigail Quart <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 30 Dec 2003 11:25:01 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 14.2448 Psychology of Gertrude

[3]     From:   Susan St. John <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 30 Dec 2003 11:46:43 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.2448 Psychology of Gertrude


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Annalisa Castaldo <
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Date:           Tuesday, 30 Dec 2003 10:05:16 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 14.2448 Psychology of Gertrude
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.2448 Psychology of Gertrude

"In the case of G, I think she probably feared for her life, and felt
compelled to marry Claudius.

Psychologists tell us that compulsion creates a disassociated state in
which we feel the need to create rationalizations to hide our own
humiliation.  It is obvious to me that it is compulsion which has broken
G's discrimination."

Leaving the larger questions of how to recognize (and/or define) beauty,
and whether or not beauty is the same as goodness, I will limit myself
to disagreeing with Gertrude's reasons for marrying Claudius.

It seems to me that if Gertrude feared for her life and only married
Claudius out of that fear, she would be more, not less likely to cling
to him after her son murders Polonius, tells her outright that her new
husband is a murderer and then is sent away from the court. Yet we see
her lie to protect Hamlet and Gertrude is actually more active and
assertive in 4 and 5 than in earlier acts.

Second, it hardly makes psychological sense for Claudius to kill for
love if the object of his affections is afraid of him!

Third, if Gertrude fears Claudius, fears for her life, than Hamlet's
character takes a nosedive. He spends the first three acts complaining
about her fall from grace because of overriding lust; if she's really
just afraid, he's a lot less perceptive than I think most of us want to
believe.

Finally, I have always found that Hamlet's glorification of his fathr
and the Ghost's "Oh what a falling off" speech caused me to believe
Gertrude was better off with Claudius than with Old Hamlet. Perhaps itis
postmodern feminism, but both Hamlets are so absolute in their adoration
of the "good Gertrude" (or at least the wonderfulness of her marriage)
and in their contempt for any flaw. Yes Claudius is a murderer, but he
seems to love the alive, real, flawed Gertrude, not want

Annalisa Castaldo

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Abigail Quart <
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Date:           Tuesday, 30 Dec 2003 11:25:01 -0500
Subject: 14.2448 Psychology of Gertrude
Comment:        RE: SHK 14.2448 Psychology of Gertrude

"In the case of G, I think she probably feared for her life, and felt
compelled to marry Claudius." - Dana Wilson

Compulsion? A sudden widow in medieval times. What is to become of her?
A convent? Well-endowed with narrow beds. A life of being ordered
instead of ordering?

But if she just pretends that one is like the other, if she merely makes
that little, tiny leap into the arms of the brother, with the similar
eyes and hands and smile, with the dark and shadowed passion always
sidewise glancing out of his eyes......why nothing has to change.
Nothing. She is still the queen. Hamlet is still the heir presumptive
because this man will no more breed heirs off her than did his brother.
Gertrude's fertility is a one-time wonder. So it could be considered
thoughtful and unselfish to do this. It could. Motherly. After all, as
king he could have any woman. He could have a young and fertile woman
and then where would Hamlet be? So if she allows Claudius to have what
he thinks he wants, nothing will change. No decisions will have to be
made. Such an easy, comforting, tiny leap...

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Susan St. John <
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Date:           Tuesday, 30 Dec 2003 11:46:43 -0700
Subject: 14.2448 Psychology of Gertrude
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.2448 Psychology of Gertrude

Dana Wilson's post intrigued me when she wrote:

 >Hamlet holds two miniatures out for G and asks her how any mind can fail
 >to discriminate the beautiful from the ugly.

Even if it is true that Claudius is the "ugly" to King Hamlet's
"beautiful" in Hamlet's opinion, I choose to believe the old saw "beauty
is in the eye of the beholder."  I'm no psychology expert (and I'm not
sure what FA Crits are, those who give critiques of the fine arts?) but
it seems obvious to me that a son would idolize his father, and it's not
unreasonable to think that the son's description goes a bit overboard.

When my ex was running for mayor of our town, I had to listen to a lot
of adulation from my 10 year old son that rivaled Hamlet's grace on the
brow, front of Jove, eye like Mars and station like Mercury.  However,
having no Claudius in the picture, I chose to support my son's support
of his father, even though I cast my secret ballot for the incumbent.

Then Dana writes:

     It is obvious to me that it is compulsion which has broken
     G's discrimination.   What excuse can the rest of us make?

Having played Gertrude a couple of times my excuse was this:  King
Hamlet was a great king, always concerned with matters of state, but
ours was not a love-match...it was a political marriage, and not a very
warm and loving one.  Claudius on the other hand is quite passionate and
exciting; an excellent lover in all the ways his brother couldn't be.

Just for the record, I don't think G was in on the murder, nor do I
believe she was unfaithful to King Hamlet...but after he was dead she
willingly turned to the big strong man who was there to take charge, as
he swept her off in a haze of newly awakened sensuality, lust and passion!

Made for a fun choice in playing the role anyway...

Susan St. John.

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