Queen Gertrude - QUEEN GERTRUDE MONARCH MOTHER MURDERER Harmonie Loberg We generally think of human aggression in terms of confrontational physical

Queen Gertrude - QUEEN GERTRUDE MONARCH MOTHER MURDERER...

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QUEEN GERTRUDE: MONARCH, MOTHER, MURDERER Harmonie Loberg We generally think of human aggression in terms of confronta- tional, physical violence, typified by school-yard shoving contests and barroom brawls. But what behavioral scientists have discovered is that "Among adult humans, physical violence is in fact the most infrequent form of aggression" (Bjorkqvist, "New Trends," 10). In- stead, people prefer alternatives that balance greatest effect with least risk of retribution/punishment (Bjorkqvist, "Sex Differences," 181). According to Kaj Bjorkqvist, a pioneer in the field of human aggression, the development of social and verbal skills allows for "sophisticated strategies of aggression," "with the aggressor being able to harm a target person without even being identified: Those strategies may be referred to as indirect aggression" ("Sex Differ- ences," 179). This seemingly straightforward definition contains enough ambiguity to encompass a broad spectrum of complex hu- man behavior, examples of which range from the relatively harmless (e.g., spreading of a rumor) to the deadly (e.g., hiring of an assas- sin). Interestingly, Hamlet —with a plot predicated on an act of indi- rect aggression (Claudius's poisoning of Hamlet, Sr.)—offers us further paradigms; lethal demonstratives include the forging of an execution order and the disguising of murder as a friendly duel. Equally important, Shakespeare's play shows us that overt aggres- sion is punishable (Hamlet's banishment to England for murdering Polonius), while indirect aggression may bring rewards (Claudius's crowning after assassinating his brother). It also suggests that the discovery of an indirect aggressor's identity can result in severe penalty (Claudius is killed for the poisonings of the final scene). Hamlet presents such a comprehensive study of indirect aggression that we even witness an ironic inversion of the indirect aggression model in the murder of Polonius: the target person (Polonius) can identify the aggressor, but the aggressor (Hamlet) cannot identify the target person who he attacks through the arras. In truth, the only 59
act of aggression meeting the traditional criteria of direct violence is Hamlet's murder of Claudius in the play's final scene. Considering the high number of deaths by other means, this play appears to reflect the human preference for indirect aggression and this method's success rate. I suggest that, within this context of prevalent indirect aggression and with the aid of recent behavioral research, we need to consider anew the textual evidence that Ophelia's "drown- ing" is not the result of an accident or of suicide. I will argue that Queen Gertrude is responsible for the death of Ophelia, but I am not the first to suspect her involvement in this mysterious death. As early as 1805, E. H. Seymour noted that the Queen's description of Ophelia's death seems to derive "from ocular knowledge": it may be asked why, apprised as she was of Ophelia's distraction, she did not take steps to prevent the fatal catastrophe, especially as

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