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Is Gertrude an innocent victim or a sexually and morally corrupt woman?

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Introduction

Is Gertrude an innocent victim or a sexually and morally corrupt woman? Shakespeare's character Gertrude is one of much mystery; in relation to this there are many questions that need to be answered to establish Gertrude's innocence through out the play. Some examples of these questions are, was Gertrude in some kind of relationship with Claudius before the murder of her late Husband and did she know about the murder before or after it was committed? Does she love Claudius or is it just her status that she is protecting? And did she ever love the late King Hamlet? At the beginning of the play when we learn about the late King Hamlet's death and Gertrude's hasty marriage to his brother Claudius, we are faced with a question on the audience's awareness. It can be assumed that the marriage to her brother- in-law is purely because of Gertrude's weak personality, resulting in a dependency on men and the means of protecting her status and her power. We also question the love between the Gertrude and Claudius; this is because there is no suggestion of a resemblance between the late King and his brother. The description that we are given about late King Hamlet maybe slightly distorted, as it is Hamlet who tells us this, and he is noticeably loyal to his father. ...read more.

Middle

She resorts to asking Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to look after Hamlet and find the reason for his madness for which she offers them a reward. "Your visitation shall receive such thanks As fit a king's remembrance" As to Hamlet's madness she looks towards blaming herself for her son's suffering, which is noticed whilst she in conversation with Claudius, "I doubt it is not other but the main: his father's death, and our o'erhasty marriage." Act2, Scene 2 This can also show that she is admitting that the marriage to her brother in law was too soon after the death of Hamlets father, but after blaming herself, she shifts the guilt onto Ophelia. Gertrude's character in the terms of her suspected guilt and the love she feels for Claudius is reflected by Ophelia's innocence and connection to real love. Perhaps it can be assumed that Shakespeare uses Ophelia to show whether Gertrude is morally corrupt or not, as Ophelia becomes overwhelmed by her loss of her father and by the rejection that is ultimately given to her by Hamlet, and Gertrude shows no evidential remorse as she refuses to see her during her state of madness "I will not speak with her" Act 4, Scene 5. This is contradicted as Gertrude does eventually speak with her, and during the conversation she shows some kind of responsibility and mother figure towards Ophelia, by asking her questions, showing some kind of concern, "How now Ophelia?" ...read more.

Conclusion

After the death of the late King Hamlet, the ghost still defends Gertrude and persuades Hamlet to go and talk to her Act 3 Scene 4 "Oh step between her and her fighting soul" and he tells Hamlet not to judge Gertrude, or to seek any revenge upon her "leave her to heaven" Act 1 Scene 5, this could show that she was not involved as the king would have known and maybe sought after revenge, but this could also show that she was involved and she would receive the appropriate punishment upon death. She does not show any untoward hatred towards Claudius showing that she may not be aware of his cruel deed. In the end Gertrude drinks the poison which can suggest many things; that she has no knowledge of the poison or that she feels guilty of her late husband's death, and cannot carry on with the corrupt behaviour between her husband and her son, or that she is protecting her son and saving his life. When she attempts to consume the drink she is stopped suddenly by Claudius, but she replies "I will my lord, I pray you pardon me", is this the request of someone who is guilty, someone who is tired of the fighting between her two dearest or of someone with no awareness of what was going to happen? This for many readers is the critical part of the play in determining her innocence or guilt. ?? ?? ?? ?? Toni Mitha English Coursework ...read more.

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