Relationship between Hamlet and Gertrude
In the play, Hamlet, Shakespeare discusses a number of relationships. Relationship between family members are discussed in details and the most interesting one is the relationship between Hamlet and Gertrude. The relationship Hamlet has with his mother elicited sense of pain and anger in him. There is a lot of bitterness between the two characters and Hamlet spends most of time blaming Gertrude and cursing her marriage to Claudius (Adelman n.p). This paper seeks to prove that the relationship between Gertrude and her mother was healthy even though circumstances would have dictated otherwise. The first part would look at how Hamlet behaved towards her mother and her new husband, but would give a reason why the mother-son relationship was healthy.
He believes that his mother has betrayed his father when she decides to marry his brother so soon. Hamlet is consumed with the desire to avenge his father throughout the play. He believes his father had had gone through a lot of mistreatment in his life and continues to suffer in his grave. Hamlet is angry at Gertrude for not taking her time to mourn her deceased husband, but instead chose to rejoice with his new husband (Shakespeare n.p). According to Hamlet, such actions of the Queen only tarnished the memories of the departed king. In his words to himself and the other characters in the play, Hamlet expresses the anger he feels for her mother, Gertrude.
Hamlet argues that two months was a short time for a loving wife to forget about his dead husband and jump into the arms of another (Shakespeare 138). Hamlet is negatively affected by his mother’s action that his opinion about love changes. He compares the love his father showed to Gertrude; how he was a loving husband towards her and how Gertrude would respond by hanging on him. He had believed that a stable and true love should be like the one between his father and Gertrude.
The Queen should have mourned her husband longer and the fact that she married another man so quickly, led to Hamlet believing that a woman’s love is vacillating. He talks of the term frailty to refer to a woman’s emotion which could easy change with circumstances. Through Gertrude, Hamlet views women as pretenders who could feign to be deeply in love when in the real sense; they are not really in love with a person.
The anger he feels for his mother goes beyond her betrayal to his father. He views her actions disgrace to the sanctity of marriage and love. Gertrude unknowingly, has caused an impact into the way Hamlet views relationship and in end affects his relationship with Ophelia. In page 137-38, Hamlet asks Ophelia about the play that she was watching, she replies that it is brief and Hamlet adds that “As a woman’s love”. He begins ignoring Ophelia and distances himself from her because of what Gertrude did to his father. The relationship between him and his mother denies him the joy of loving someone who loves you back. He is in love with Ophelia but he stays away from her, he confesses his love for her when she dies.
Hamlets never doubted Ophelia’s love for him; he was just not sure if it was as fickle as Gertrude’s love for his father. He decides to play safe by avoiding love that might turn out to be as fickle as his mother’s when they are married. The bad relationship Hamlet has with his mother led to his killing of Polonius because he thought he was Claudius. Hamlet was furious at the thought that Gertrude and her lover could have planned the death of his father together. When Gertrude confronts him about the death of Polonius, Hamlet tells her that his action was as bad as that of killing a king (Shakespeare 26). Her response shocked him but still did not convince him that she did not betray the king. She might not have killed the king, but she still betrayed him by marrying his brother just after two months.
The relationship between the son and his mother is further complicated by the incestuous nature of her marriage to her husband’s brother. He uses harsh words when he finds her in her bed chamber. He refers to her as wife to the husband’s brother. He does not understand how his mother could marry his uncle when he was a complete opposite of his father. Hamlet effortlessly tries to make his mother realize her mistake of marrying Claudius. After comparing to her the pictures of his father and his uncle, Hamlet manages to have Gertrude’s full attention. It dawns to her that she had betrayed her late husband by marrying his brother. She had never thought that Claudius could have killed her husband just to steal the kingship and the Queen from him. Hamlet’s words made her to look back into the events that had folded since her husband’s death and felt ashamed at what she had done since she lost her husband.
From this point, the mother and the son form a new friendship and vow to work together to bring Claudius down. Gertrude promises to keep secret the fact that Hamlet was only pretending to be insane (Shakespeare 80). The Queen takes allegiance to work with her son and to ensure that the person responsible for her husband’s death does not go unpunished. It is observed that Hamlet was angry at his mother for her decision to marry the brother of her late husband and believes that she might have played a part in the death of his father. However, Hamlet still cares about her mother and does not wish her any harm. He tries his best to make her see that her actions were improper and that she should not be together with Claudius.
It would be right to say that the relationship that the mother and her son had was healthy. A healthy relationship is characterized by open communication and being mindful of each other. Even though Hamlet is so angry at his mother, he does not harm her but is willing to kill Claudius (Adelman n.p). He believes that he would manage to convince Gertrude that her decision to marry so quickly was wrong and that her marriage to Claudius was incestuous. He cares about her but believes that she is wrong.
It was normal for Hamlet, just like any other human being, to get angry at her mother. Hamlet loved his parents and would not have wished any of them to do something that could dishonor the other. The feelings of anger and bewilderment reflected by Hamlet at the beginning of play showed that he had a great relationship with his mother before she married his uncle. Her action took him by surprise and he was even angrier at her for not seeing what her decision was doing to their family. Throughout the play, Hamlet is after the restoration of the relationship he had with his mother before he could avenge his deceased father.
Adelman, Janet. Suffocating Mothers: Fantasies of Maternal Origin in Shakespeare’s Plays, Hamlet to the Tempest. London: Routledge, 2012.
Shakespeare, William. The tragedy of Hamlet. University Press, 1904.