The Role of Queen Gertrude in Play “Hamlet” Essay

Whether or not Queen Gertrude, Prince Hamlet’s mother, was guilty of being part of the conspiracy that led to the murder of her husband, King Hamlet is debatable. This follows the fact that every critic presents a proof that defends his/her position concerning the debate, a case that takes place even today.


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Those on the support of her innocence conclude that she is just a victim of circumstances since she finds herself caught up in conditions that expose her to being associated with the conspiracy that she knew nothing about. However, whether this is true or not does not mean that she should escape judgment if the guilty must face it based on their actions.

Queen Gertrude might not have been present in the murder of her husband but that is true of all possible masterminds of wicked conspiracies. Her actions as portrayed by Shakespeare in the story lead one to the conclusion that she is as guilty as the one who executed the real murder of King Hamlet. There is enough proof tabled in the story that link Gertrude to the knowledge of the conspiracy plotted against her husband.

When the slain king’s ghost appears to Prince Hamlet, its description of the murder does not involve the mention of the queen as being among the perpetrators. However, this does not necessarily exempt her from the conspiracy considering the power behind the ghost: the deep feeling of love that King Hamlet had for his queen. The lines, “Revenge his foul and must unnatural murder…But howsoever thou pursue this act, taint not thy mind, nor let thy soul contrive against thy mother aught. Leave her to heaven” (Hoy I.V. 84-85).

King Hamlet suggests that Gertrude be left alone to be haunted by her conscience. This implies that King Hamlet only wanted to save his son from the possible guilt that he may have faced when he engaged in killing his own mother.

The fact that Queen Gertrude remarried Claudius, the murderer of her husband after only two months when the grave of King Hamlet was still fresh raises eyebrows. This is by considering the fact that in those days marrying the brother in-law implied incestuous, which Gertrude did even without second thoughts.

This gives rise to the impression that she had waited for the day when her husband would be no more, a time when she would marry his late husband’s brother. Considering that she was not even concerned about the impression that her actions would cause to the people of Denmark, she truly might have been an accomplice in the plot to murder her husband or she was not able to control her bodily desires.


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When Prince Hamlet organizes for the play that is supposed to link Claudius to the murder of his father through gauging his reactions, Hamlet notices something about his mother that can pass for evidence against her. This happens when the queen in the play that Hamlet organizes keeps on professing her love to the king. Gertrude says, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks” (Hoy III.IV. 89).

This is a clear indication that she identified with the situation presented on the stage and that she had a conflicting feeling with the queen in the play. This means that her love to the slain King Hamlet was a false one and that she might have been part of the conspiracy to eliminate him so that she can get the chance to marry Claudius who executed the murder.

In the queen’s closet when Hamlet goes to confront her, Gertrude has Polonius hide behind the curtains to eaves drop into their conversation. This means that Claudius influenced her easily and that must have been the case during the murder of her husband King Hamlet.

This is a clear indication that she was involved in the plot and wanted to warn Claudius that Hamlet was aware of what happened to his father. This shows further that she had her wickedness disguised behind her naivety since she could not even trust her own son and had to have someone hide to get and take the information to the king Claudius.

There is guilt that is evident in Gertrude’s voice following her confrontation by her son in the closet. Her words, “O Hamlet, speak no more. Thou turn’st mine eyes into my very soul, and there I see such black and grained spots…as will not leave their tinct” (Hoy III.IV. 88-91) signify the guilt that she has.

It is notable also when Prince Hamlet begs her not to go to bed with Claudius again; she evades the swearing meaning that one cannot overlook her potential as a terrible schemer of evil. The dramatic irony at this point grows when the queen promises not to tell anyone about what the prince says while she knows very well that Polonius was hiding behind the curtains and would surely tell Claudius.

With the evidence revealing Queen Gertrude’s possibility of having been part of the conspiracy that had her husband murdered out-weighing the possibility of her not being involved, it suffices to infer that the punishment that the apparition of the slain king proposed as punishment for her was not enough. This follows the sense that having been part of the conspiracy she is as guilty as Claudius whose treacherous acts led to him to murder his own brother to ascend onto the throne.


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Works Cited

Hoy, Cyrus. Hamlet, William Shakespeare. New York: Norton and Co publishers, 1992. Print.

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