Hamlet Character Analysis


A mother is usually thought of as a caregiver who would do anything in her power to protect her children. She should care for them more than anyone else, and always stay faithful. A child should always know that he or she could trust his mother. Unfortunately for Hamlet, Gertrude was not the conventional mother. In addition to these not-so-motherly traits, she was also highly dependent on others, while undependable herself. As mother to Hamlet, Gertrude was untrustworthy and dependent on others, while showing a lack of care for her son and emotion during tragic events.


Gertrude acted as if she could be trusted, yet proved herself to be untrustworthy on several occasions. Hamlet asked only two favors of her throughout the play. When he asked her not to tell Claudius that he is only pretending to be mad, she agreed. Nevertheless, as soon as she found the opportunity, she said to Claudius, “Mad as the sea and wind when both contend which is the mightier” (4.1.7-8). The other favor that Hamlet asked of his mother was for her not to go to bed with Claudius. He begged, “Not this by no means that I bid you do: Let the bloat king tempt you again to bed” (3.4.203-204). As predicted, she did not listen to him.


When her husband Hamlet died, Gertrude was married to Hamlet’s brother Claudius in less than two months. In addition to proving her careless and unemotional attitude, this action also shows her lack of independence. In a quick move due to her feeling that a man must always protect her, she did not even wait the time it would normally take to grieve over the death of a spouse. She obviously relied on a husband to take care of her and felt unable to be alone. She evidently felt that she need protection from whatever harm could be done to her. Even when she was having a conversation with her own son, Polonius watched from behind a curtain. When she was around Claudius, she usually did not have her own opinion and stood silently, agreeing with him. As she said to him when he said that him and Polonius would spy on Hamlet, “I shall obey you” (3.1.41). Her son Hamlet entirely disrespected her dependence on men.


When young Hamlet was grieving over his father’s death, instead of supporting him, Gertrude disapproved of him wearing black clothing in mourning. After Claudius asked Hamlet why he was still grieving (after only two months), Gertrude proceeded to tell him, “Good Hamlet, cast thy knighted color off, And let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark. Do not forever with thy vailéd lids Seek for thy noble father in the dust. Thou know’st ‘tis common; all that lives must die, Passing through nature to eternity” (1.2.69-75). This is not a common attitude for someone who had recently lost a husband. Not only does her careless attitude establish that she does not care about her son (or dead husband), but also she lacks emotion. Gertrude did not lack all emotion, however. She often became angry at Hamlet. However, she never grieved over unfortunate situations such as death. She was the one to deliver the news of Ophelia’s death to her brother Laertes, and did not acknowledge the event as tragic. She just relayed the news, and told the story of how it happened. At the news of a young girl’s death, the mood is usually melancholy, but Gertrude just said it as if it had been any other news. She also proved that she did not care about her son Hamlet when she betrayed him. Her unfaithfulness towards her son showed a lack of care for him. In addition to that, she never protested to any ideas Claudius had towards Hamlet. When he wanted to keep him in Denmark instead of sending him back to Wittenberg where he would be happy, Gertrude did not protest.


Queen Gertrude is a character who lacks several important personal traits. She lacks strength, as is seen in her dependence. She waited less than two months to get remarried after her husband’s death; even worse is the fact that she got married to her husband’s brother. This marriage also demonstrates her lack