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To What Extent do you feel that Gertrude is responsible for Hamlet's state of mind in the play so far?

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Introduction

Henry Bain To What Extent do you feel that Gertrude is responsible for Hamlet's state of mind in the play so far? One of the ambiguous themes in the play that is left widely to interpretation is the madness of Hamlet. Is he merely "mad in craft," or, has he actually degenerated into a nihilistic man, to whom "to be or not to be" is a central preoccupation? Hamlet is clearly angered by the marriage of his mother and his uncle so soon after his father's death. In Hamlet's first soliloquy he says: 'Or that the Everlasting had not fixed His canon gainst self slaughter' (1.2.131-2) Hamlet immediately tells us he wishes suicide was not a mortal sin. This, along with the rest of his soliloquy, shows the profound effect that the marriage of his mother and uncle has had upon him. He compares his mother to a "beast that wants discourse of reason," and outlines that Claudius is as much like his father, as Hamlet is to Hercules. Hamlet considered his father as without fault (Hyperion) and, not being two months dead, his father was replaced in his mother's affections and "incestuous sheets." Hamlet's indignation to the marriage is explicit and the lines in his soliloquy are teeming with emotion. Hamlet also feels bound to suffer in silence, although this will "break" his heart. At this point in the play Hamlet's feels depressed, alone and trapped within Denmark and within himself. ...read more.

Middle

In one stream of consciousness, Hamlet links death, sex and Ophelia. This is a very warped and disturbing image to portray, especially in the presence of Polonius. Hamlet's emotions expressed for Ophelia are often at opposite ends of the spectrum from one scene to the next. In act 3 Hamlet tells Ophelia, "I did love you once," and then "I loved you not," within two lines of speech. Hamlet's disgust with Ophelia (when he knows for certain the he is being set up), like with his mother, becomes centred on her sexual depravity. Hamlet does not set out to talk to Ophelia in this way. Indeed and when he first catches sight of her he talks of "soft" "fair" Ophelia. By the end of their encounter, he sees Ophelia as a whore and as frailty personified rather than a person. When the play is being performed in Act 3 Hamlet asks Ophelia "if this is a prologue, or the posy of a ring." She replies that "it is brief" and Hamlet immediately injects, "as a woman's love." Like the scene when Hamlet is alone with his mother, he takes her words and twists them to enforce his opinion. Hamlet is unable to let Ophelia's remarks go unchallenged. This shows his conflicting emotions of love and hate towards her, that prevent him from moving on I think that Hamlet is more affected by Ophelia's betrayal than he lets on. Hamlet's attitude to women is not totally misogynistic but more an eclectic collection of extreme emotions, that he can't place or understand. ...read more.

Conclusion

Gertrude is ashamed of what she has done and truly feels that she has scarred her morality. Hamlet uses a variety of language that could be attributed to a confession: Confess yourself to heaven...Repent...Virtue...Refrain. This is in essence, a complete confession of Hamlet's soul to his mother, who is left with her 'heart cleft in twain.' The religious inference of this passage shows Hamlet's deep and repressed grief, attributed to the 'o'erhasty' actions of his mother. However, Hamlet reassures Gertrude that he is 'mad in craft' and, finally accepting what he has said, Gertrude says: 'Be thou assured, if words be made of breath, And breath of life, I have no life to breathe What thou hast said to me.' Although the three lines above do indeed verify Gertrude's acceptance of her son's wishes there is a deeper meaning within. The line, 'I have no life to breathe' can be juxtaposed with Hamlet saying that, to him, life is nothing more than a 'sterile promontory.' Hamlet and his mother carry the burden of their knowledge alone and it is this that finally unites them. There is a shared realisation that life, in view of this horrific knowledge, is not worth living. Until now, Gertrude's was Hamlet's main degenerative catalyst. His state of mind was dominated by the sexual inferences of his mother and Claudius. Hamlet's state of will change now. His mother is now not as responsible for the way he behaves; Hamlet must wait and see how she reacts to the news he has told her. ...read more.

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