After deciding that I wanted to write about one of the two women in Hamlet, I finally settled on Queen Gertrude. Sure, Ophelia is a super cool chick who goes crazy, and basically everyone involved in theatre who is between ages 15 to 30 wants to play her, but that seemed too basic. Yes, Ophelia has a mental breakdown during the play, something I definitely relate to, but she just seems overdone (no offense, Ophelia). I landed on Queen Gertrude because where Ophelia outwardly shows her emotions, Gertrude remains fairly collected throughout the play. Queen Gertrude is an eloquent, wise woman who is often cast behind the curtain (sorry, Polonius), and I want to bring her out before she gets stabbed by her emo son.
Queen Gertrude is a really cool lady with somewhat-unknown intentions. It is clear throughout the play that her character is intended to be a messenger of sorts and also the voice of reason in her kingdom, all while her son is off being an impulsive teen (or maybe an impulsive 30-year-old man, but hey, that’s a different analysis for a different day) and her husband is off trying to win the worst step-dad/uncle of the year award. Queen Gertrude, in an effort to tame her man-child, says, “good Hamlet, cast thy nighted color off/ and let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark” when Hamlet will not shut up about his ghost encounters that are straight out of the Overlook Hotel (I. ii. 70-71). This line clearly shows that Gertrude is concerned about Hamlet’s ghostly confrontations and wants him to focus his attention on less insanity-inducing topics. Additionally, Gertrude tries to reason with Hamlet on a number of occasions, telling him, “Hamlet, thou hast thy father much offended” to which Hamlet responds, “Mother, you have my father much offended” (III. iv. 12-13). This response from Hamlet is all too common throughout the play, and I believe that eventually, sometime around Act III, Gertrude gives up trying to reason with her son, and finally realizes that only he himself can bring about his much needed personality shift.
After Gertrude realizes that everyone around her is insane, she also seems to have somewhat of a mental breakdown, but instead of making a fool of herself, like Ophelia, she just kills herself, and I think that it’s wonderful. In scene two of Act V, I would like to believe that Gertrude takes a look around the room, sees her only child fighting with the son of the guy he murdered and then sees her husband secretly rubbing his hands together in a malicious way, you know the way evil guys do, and then thinks “I’m so done with this,” drinks the wine, knowing it is poisonous, after Claudius commands, “Gertrude, do not drink” (V. ii. 317). Gertrude does exactly that, hopefully to spite him, and then wipes Hamlet’s brow, thus hopefully spiting him too and proving to him that she is indeed a good mother, not the heartless seductress Hamlet believes her to be. Then, after Gertrude collapses, Claudius quickly writes it off as her “[swooning] to see them bleed” (V. ii. 340). After putting Claudius in his place by correcting him with one of her last breaths. Gertrude then dies, and Hamlet is angrier about himself being conspired against, instead of his own mother’s death, and dies only mentioning her once more when he forces Claudius to drink the poison.
So basically, Gertrude most likely married her brother-in-law because she liked being the queen, and then had to deal with her son being a pissbaby about it, all because she wanted to continue shopping at Target instead of having to switch over to K-Mart. Then, after attempting to reason with her over-emotional son, she most likely kills herself after realizing that she was the only sane person in a room full of mentally-unstable men with swords and poison.