In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, what plot events undermine queen Gertrude’s confidence?
While Gertrude appears to be unaware at the start of the play of Claudius’s wrongdeeds, as the play goes on, she begins questioning her claims. When Hamlet kills Polonius, Gertrude’s beliefs are questioned and he accuses his mother betraying him. He tells her the truth about her father’s death, and she is forced to admit her own guilt.
Gertrude, who is unable to accept this truth, begs Hamlet for help. She screams, “O Hamlet! / Thou turnest mine eyes into my soul, / I see such blackened and grained spots/ That they will not lose their tinct.”‘ What is her reaction? The reader is made to see that Gertrude has begun to learn from her mistakes. She realizes that her husband was wrong and she married his murderer.
Gertrude is also ruined by Laertes’s insecurity. He is also determined to repay his father’s murder. Laertes, unlike Hamlet is not inclined towards reason. Laertes is not afraid to exact revenge on anyone. Laertes’ act iv best description would be “anger”. He believes Claudius killed Polonius and so he confronts him with accusations. Polonius then tells Laertes about Hamlet’s madness, which he believes killed Polonius. Gertrude is forced to make a choice between her mother’s desire to save her son or her inability to accept it.
The reader follows Gertrude as she doubts her feelings further into Act IV, where Ophelia is completely insane about her father’s death. The song is about true love and an innocent, unjustly killed man. “By his cockle cap and staff / And he sandal shoon.”
Gertrude pretends to not understand the lyrics. This is why Shakespeare included this incident. Most likely, Shakespeare wanted to show how difficult it was for Gertrude hearing the lyrics of this song. They were Gertrude’s own failure to be a true mourning wife to her husband.
Ophelia in Hamlet is a contrast to Gertrude. Ophelia’s character changes throughout the play, from an innocent girl obeying her father and brother to a mad woman who commits suicide. She doesn’t want to live in this world of traitors. Gertrude is a different story.
Shakespeare’s scholars continue to debate whether Gertrude is innocent. In her “Gertrude’s Role in Hamlet” article, Emily Graf states that Gertrude was a victim of circumstances and caught between two warring-parties. She hides the truth, and she wants to avoid conflict. Harmonie Loberg in “Queen Gertrude, Monarch, Mother and Murderer” claims that she is a traitor, murderer, and that she knows that her husband was killed by his brother. There is still much debate about whether Gertrude is guilty or innocent. At the end of the play, Gertrude, in the duel between Hamlet, Laertes, finally admits to her wrongdoings and drinks from a poisoned glass trying to save Hamlet.