Hamlet Gertrude
by William Shakespeare

The queen of Denmark is one of the most enigmatic characters in the play. Many questions are raised about her during the play, but few are ever answered. Did she love her first husband? Does she love Claudius? Was she involved with Claudius before her husband’s death? Did she know about the plot to kill the former king ahead of time, and if so, was she involved in it? If she doesn’t love Claudius, did she marry him just to keep her place as queen? Does she believe Hamlet when Hamlet insists he is not insane, or does she just go along with him to protect herself?

Depending on how one reads the play, these questions can be answered in many ways. What we do know about Gertrude is that her desires for social advancement and personal affection rule her decisions in many ways. She also tends to rely on the men in her life for protection and advancement, although it is difficult to tell whether this is a character flaw or an inevitable result of being a woman in a country and court dominated by men.

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