Gertrude

March 30, 2007 at 6:34 pm 6 comments

Again, my Shakespeare class has left me feeling vaguely dissatisfied and more than a little indignant.

When I read the play, I felt more than a little sorry for Gertrude. It cannot be fun having to discuss your sex-life with your self-righteous and prudish son, and to have him heap insult on you. That he happens to be right – and your new husband did in fact murder your old one makes it only worse.
So the situation is this: your husband is a murderer. His predecessor also kinda was (he murdered Fortinbras’ father, remember? And given how much time he seems to spend in his armour I’m willing to bet Fortinbras senior wasn’t his only victim.) And your son is well on the way to becoming a misogynistic prig and a frenzied murderer.

Under the circumstances no woman can be blamed for marrying Claudius. At least he seems to have been more intelligent and suaver and more attractive than his brother, if the ghost’s ranting is anything to go by. Plus Claudius has the added attraction of wearing less of the poky armour. And he seems genuinely fond of her. Claudius certainly does draw the line at using Gertrude as bait for Hamlet, though he has no such qualms with Ophelia.

Ophelia, incidentally, is such a mess that I can do no more than give her up for a lost cause – as she does herself.
I know she is very young and confused and has an idiot for a parent and another for a brother, and Hamlet Prince of Dementmark for a lover. But really. Gertrude is making the best of a bad job – and doing it creditably. And she refrained from enacting any public scenes of angst. Ophelia is making the worst of it – and doing it as noisily and messily as she can.

Talking of which: Hamlet is such a boor. His behaviour to both women is completely unpardonable. Ophelia should kick him in the shins. Get thee to a nunnery indeed. Ideally he should’ve gone off to a nice monastery with no women to trigger off his psychotic spells and spent the rest of his life sitting there writing books on witchcraft. And been sodomised by some nice old friar for his pains. He’d’ve probaby found he quite enjoyed it.

It’ll certainly make life easier for his mother.

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(Almost) wordless rain

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. lazylazarus  |  March 31, 2007 at 4:33 pm

    Oh you have to read Updike’s “Gertrude and Claudius”. ‘Tis an excellent story about G and C’s life before Little Hamlet came along to ruin all the fun. And Claudius probably inherited all the brains in the family. Or perhaps Hamlet’s dad couldn’t think when he wasn’t wearing his armour. Ugh. Don’t even get me started on Ophelia. But I still don’t understand why the poor peasant who painted such a poetic picture of her suicide did not try to fish her out of that stupid river. Don’t tell me Danish peasants prefer poetry to dramatic rescues. They are Danes, for heaven’s sake!

  • 2. S  |  March 31, 2007 at 11:22 pm

    Would _you_ have fished her out if you’d seen her?I certainly wouldn’t have.Given how generally wet behind the ears she was anyway, drowned was like her natural habitat.

  • 3. lazylazarus  |  April 1, 2007 at 3:41 am

    Well yes, with a ten foot pole, I certainly would have.And it would have saved us from that tiresome scene at the cemetery.

  • 4. Roh  |  April 15, 2007 at 1:01 pm

    I cannot see why Ophelia’s teenage angsty breakdown is so shocking. a) She is a teenager.b) She likes Hamlet. This alone is indicative of some degree of instability.Gertrude is the true unacknowledged heroine of the play, the Draupadi whose husbands all die. Whether she marries them or not.

  • 5. S  |  April 16, 2007 at 12:56 pm

    lazarus: I still suspect i’d’ve left her in the water out of spitero: heh. mainly cos she didnt just go angsty, she went full-scale nuts. I faling for broody hamlet types at that age is totally understandable. Except it ought to have taken her all of 6 hours to move on and fall for say horatio after that.

  • 6. lazylazarus  |  April 16, 2007 at 8:53 pm

    you enabled comment moderation?i am shocked.Oh yes, why do women not fall for horatio?He seems rational and his name doesn’t begin with “ham”.

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