If you haven’t tried out our techniques of using ‘Parts and Cues’ and ‘Highlit Text’ to explore a Shakespeare character, then you’ll find it helpful to read the detailed explanation we give for the character Hamlet (click on Let’s Explore Hamlet).
You can explore any Shakespearean character in a play published by Players-Shakespeare.com in a similar way. Here we help you explore Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother, and the Queen.
What an interesting role Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother, is! She usually makes a huge impression on the audience but is only in half the scenes of the play, and has less than 5% of the lines, which, in theory, barely makes her a ‘principal’ role. Horatio, Laertes, and Ophelia, all have more lines than Gertrude.
So how does she become such a presence in the play? Well of course she is Hamlet’s mother, and mothers loom large in most people’s lives. And she has the very powerful scene (A3S4) where Hamlet accuses her vehemently and Polonius gets killed.
There are a number of questions about Gertrude which anyone playing her role has to consider. One is pre-eminent. Why does she marry Claudius so soon after the death of her first husband, Hamlet’s father? Hamlet seems to think it’s lust, but is it? She seems to feel guilty about the rather quick re-marriage, but what drove her to it? Exploring her speeches might help you to come to a view.
The following links let you see the main scenes in which Gertrude speaks, and the link will show you the scene in ‘Parts and CUes’ mode. Of course, after you’ve read the scene in Parts and Cues mode, you can switch (we explain how in the Let’s Explore Hamlet post) to Highlit Text mode, and see her speeches in context. The following scenes are the ones I think most interesting, but of course, you explore the whole play and read all her lines:
- Act 2 Scene 2 shows how she works as Queen to Claudius
- Act 3 Scene 1 explores her relationship with Claudius further
- Act 3 Scene 4 is the famous conflict scene with her son, Hamlet
- Act 4 Scene 1 shows what she says about Hamlet to Cluadius after the murder of Polonius .
- Act 4 Scene 5: reveals how Gertrude deals with Ophelia after the death of her father, Polonius
- Act 4 Scene 7: Gertrude tells Claudius and Laertes of the death of Ophelia
- Act 5 Scene 2: The death of Gertrude, poisoned by Claudius
Of course, by reading the scenes, you may well see different things from what I’ve outlined above, but if you read these scenes you should come to clearer view of what you think about Gertrude’s character. Don’t forget their are other scenes in which Gertrude appears, so you might like to find and explore them. Choose the scenes that interest you, and explore the Queen’s role in both Parts and Cues and Highlit Text modes.