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To What Extent Do You agree that Gertrude

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Simon Everett To What Extent Do You agree that Gertrude is the centre of evil in Hamlet? Throughout 'Hamlet' we are presented with two possible readings of Gertrude. The first comes from the impression of her forced upon us by the discussions and accusations of Hamlet and the Ghost. The second comes from the lines of Gertrude herself. If we were to follow the first of these two possibilities, placing our trust in the hands of a very possibly insane Hamlet, we accuse Gertrude of playing at least a small part in the murder of King Hamlet; this in turn leads to the conclusion that Gertrude is sited near to the centre of evil at the very least. This is perhaps the more popular of the two options when it comes to stage portrayal. The alternative option is that Gertrude is one of the play's few innocent characters. There are two possible explanations if this is the case, the first being that the evidence supplied by the Ghost to Hamlet is unreliable, possibly because the Ghost is lying, the audience of the time would certainly been sceptical about any evidence offered up by the spirit of Hamlet's father with ghosts being more associated with hell than anything else at the time and this would be perpetuated by Hamlet's soliloquy in Act 1 Scene 4 where he himself questions the motives of the Ghost: Be thou a spirit of health, or a goblin damned, Bring with thee airs from heaven or blasts from ...read more.


Throughout the remainder of this critic's paper and the entirety of the play, there is very little evidence to suggest that there is any conscious attempt by the queen to warp the perspectives of any of her fellow characters. However Smith does note the limitations inherent with the text concerning Gertrude's character. It is entirely possible that it is an act and the wringing of her hands may be a display of nerves rather than shock. If you were to look at any modern production of the play, you would most likely be presented with a Gertrude who oozes power and confidence, who throughout stands as the puppeteer of her husband Claudius. This is visible in the 1996 movie production of the play by Brannagh. During the performance of the play in the previous act, we see signs from Gertrude that not only does she recognise the events of the play, which bear a striking resemblance to the tales of the Ghost, but also the possibility that Hamlet may at this point know of what happened; "The lady doth protest too much methinks." The line displays arrogance in the character of Gertrude. She flirts with Hamlet's emotions and almost mocks his attempts to force a rise out of her. From this, it would have been easy for Gertrude to raise her guard against Hamlet; she has plenty of time between these two incidences to prepare herself for an accusation, so that she could give the most guiltless response. ...read more.


Deuteronomy 25:5-6 If we refer back to Act two and the play within the play, we see two very different reactions from the current King and Queen. It is the King who folds under the pressure put upon him, calling for lights and storming from the room before the play had reached its climax, whilst the Queen managed to stand strong. This may be seen to show the Queen's innocence, as the audience of Shakespearian times especially would expect these roles to be reversed and the King to be the stronger of the two characters. It is however consistent with Shakespeare's habit of writing strong female characters into his plays, the most obvious example being Lady Macbeth, who also drove her lover to regicide. This may be the reason behind the common stage portrayal of Gertrude to be the strongest of the pair. I feel that this is the most likely conclusion that can be drawn from the limited evidence provided to us by the text on Gertrude. Due to her over bearing role in her relationship with her husband Claudius, I feel that she must have knowledge of the circumstances of the King's death. I believe that it is she who drove Claudius into his actions which in turn leads on to any other evil actions carried out later on in the play, including those carried out by Hamlet in vengeance for his father. Therefore, assuming this to be true, all evil can be traced back to Gertrude, which places her at the very centre of evil. ...read more.

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