E 366K Paper 2 - Dr. Bruster E 366K 31 October 2006...

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Dr. Bruster E 366K 31 October 2006 Gertrude’s Demeanor: Passivity, thy name is woman! Good Hamlet, cast thy nighted color off, And let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark. Do not forever with thy vailéd lids Seek for thy noble father in the dust. Thou know’st ‘tis common, all that lives must die, Passing through nature to eternity. (1.2.68-73) This excerpt, taken from William Shakespeare’s enigmatic tragedy Hamlet , exemplifies Gertrude’s pragmatic nature and her limited agency with which to voice her own thoughts and opinions, despite her insightful perspective on life and death that follows the same line of reasoning as Hamlet’s soliloquy in the cemetery after finding Yorick’s skull. In her first appearance in the play, Gertrude counsels her son on the temporality of human existence, but her guidance is lost on Hamlet who fails to acknowledge her recommendation and instead mocks her slightly by playing on her use of the word “common” to suggest vulgarity rather than referring to a universal occurrence. While often played as an overtly sexualized, deceitful woman, Gertrude genuinely desires happiness for Hamlet in this scene, but he is so fixated on her incestuous marriage to his uncle that he does not even notice his mother’s earnest concern. Discerning the queen’s true temperament in Hamlet is further complicated by 1
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the fact that the majority of discussion about Gertrude's personality and actions takes place by other male characters in the play. Gertrude is a stimulus for violent, emotionally powerful reactions in the ghost, Hamlet, and Claudius, all of whom offer extreme, differing descriptions of her. However, Gertrude’s own words and actions in Shakespeare's Hamlet do not create the robust, lascivious queen that is traditionally portrayed in stage and film productions; instead, Gertrude’s demeanor appears to be that of an acquiescent, loving, and pragmatic woman – a “most seeming-virtuous queen”
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E 366K Paper 2 - Dr. Bruster E 366K 31 October 2006...

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