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William Shakespeare (1564-1616) was a famous poet and playwright during the English Renaissance. He was known as the greatest writer of the English language. He wrote numerous comedies, tragedies, historical pieces and poetry(“”). The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark is Shakespeare’s longest play and one of his most popular pieces. The portrayal of love in this play is powerful and tragic. One of the most profound relationships in this play was that between Hamlet and his mother Gertrude, Queen of Denmark. Their relationship was like a rollercoaster ride with numerous up and downs.  The downfall of the relationship started after the death of King Hamlet. Gertrude, Queen of Denmark and Claudius, brother of the late King Hamlet, were married only one month after the death of the king. Hamlet was intensely bothered by this marriage for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that he is still mourning his father’s death and he does not feel that his mother has had adequate grieving time. The second reason is he is disgusted by the fact that his mother married his uncle ( his father’s brother). For these reasons the “bad” side of love is revealed between Hamlet and Gertrude.


In Act One, Scene Two, Claudius and Gertrude are addressing the court regarding the death of King Hamlet and their marriage to one another. Gertrude seems to be blissfully happy and questions Hamlet about his mournful attitude and attire. She is seeking the approval from her son regarding her new marriage and wishes for him to be happy for them. She explains to him that people are born and people die. Hamlet 's reply to her is he understands the circle of life, yet it has only been two months since his father’s passing. Gertrude realizes that Hamlet is not coping well with his father’s deaths and begs him to stay there in Denmark and not return to school. She says to him: “Let not thy mother lose her own prayers, Hamlet, I pray thee, stay with us, go not to Wittenberg.”. Hamlet replies by saying “I shall in all my best obey you, madam”(Shakespeare, William pg 1119).




Hamlet agreeing to stay in Denmark shows that he does in fact love his mother however, while alone he sobs over the loss of his father and the new relationship between his mother and Claudius. He does not understand how his mother could be guiltless and dismiss her feelings for his father so quickly after his death and show such loyalty to Claudius. This deeply saddened Hamlet because he knew how much his father loved his mother.


In Act One, Scenes Four and Five, Hamlet sees ghost of his late father and learns that he died at the hand of Claudius through poison. The ghost of King Hamlet wills for his son to avenge his death by killing Claudius. Hamlet swears his peers to secrecy and returns home pretending to be mad (crazy) in order to get the truth from Claudius. Gertrude is bothered by Hamlets emotional state and calls on two of his classmates to visit him and report back to her what has caused his recent state of mind. This could be Gertrude’s way of reaching out to Hamlet because she does feel a little guilty or she does not want to be bothered by this so she sends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to find out what is going on with Hamlet and to help him cope. The Queen is feeling embarrassed by Hamlet’s behavior however, she seems to be concerned about him.


Gertrude soon learns of the broken relationship between Hamlet and Ophelia. In Act Two, Scene Two Gertrude is disturbed by this finding and was unaware of any trouble between them. Polonius forbids Ophelia to see Hamlet anymore because of his present state of mind. Hamlet is not terribly bothered by this because he has been so distracted by the message from the ghost and avenging his father’s death. However, Gertrude continues to seek answers for her sons behavior but only at the king’s requests and orders. Ophelia’s life was short and in turn caused the Queen to feel remorseful. At the funeral Gertrude states “I hoped thou shouldst have been my Hamlet’s wife"(line 245). Perhaps she is feeling guilty for the way she treated Hamlet but nevertheless he has now lost the woman he loved forever.


The relationship between Gertrude and Hamlet was most disturbing during the bedroom scene after the performance of The Mousetrap. Gertrude is seeking an explanation for the play by orders of Claudius. She infuriates Hamlet by telling him that he has offended the king ( King Hamlet). Hamlet is quick to respond to his mother’s accusation. He is so angry that he forbids her to speak and forces her to look into a mirror to examine herself. She is hurt by Hamlet’s rage and fears for her life. She does not know what she has done to deserve this. While Hamlet forces her to look in the mirror he tells her to take responsibility for her actions. He is disgusted by her incestuous relationship with Claudius and that his father died by her new husbands hand. He basically calls her a whore and the wife of a murderer. Hamlet begs her to use her bedroom skills to trick Claudius into a confession but Gertrude is outraged and yet again chooses her husband over her son. In fact, she returns to Claudius and tells him about the accidental death of Polonius and that Hamlet is truly mad.


As the play nears he end Gertrude feels helpless. She realizes that the relationship with her son may never be mended. Now that Ophelia and Polonius are dead, Laertes (Ophelia’s brother and son of Polonius) has challenged Hamlet to a dual to avenge the deaths of his father and sister.  Gertrude is fearful for the life of her son however, she is unaware of the arrangement between Claudius and Laertes. Unfortunately, the plan backfired. Hamlet and Laertes were both struck by the sword, Gertrude drank of the poisonous cup while trying to sooth her son and Claudius was forced to drink the poison by Hamlet before he died




Gertrude and Hamlet once had a loving relationship. Everything changed after the death of King Hamlet. Hamlet was mourning the death of his father while Gertrude was starting a new life with his uncle. She did not even stop and think how this new marriage would affect her relationship with her son. Hamlet was disgusted by her new endeavor. Gertrude loved Hamlet but she was very selfish. She put her needs and the needs of her new husband before Hamlet. This caused the downfall of their relationship. Sadly, their relationship was never mended. All involved died in vain and “bad” love viewed it’s ugly head.





Works Cited:


. N.p.. Web. 30 Sep 2013.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Shakespeare.


Delbanco, Nicholas, and Alan Cheuse. "Literature Craft and voice second edition." . N.p.. Web. 30 Sep 2013. Page 1116

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