The Culpability of Queen Gertrude

Elizabeth Fowler

Drama Essay / Eng 113-700

April 28, 2006

In William Shakespeare's "Hamlet," Queen Gertrude's culpability of King Hamlet's death has been the subject of much debate. Although her guilt or innocence in this matter is arguable, her culpability of many other deaths is also a subject worth investigating. Queen Gertrude is a woman observably guilty of poor judgment and weak character. Her decisions, based largely on desire, lead to her death and the casualty of others as well. A defense of Gertrude in the matter of King Hamlet's death is in order only if she knew that Claudius had poisoned King Hamlet, and nothing in the text indicates that she knew of the murder. Even the ghost of King Hamlet himself did not implicate Gertrude in the murder, but only asked Hamlet to "leave her to heaven and the pangs of her own conscience." Queen Gertrude's lack of action and critical thinking prove her guilty not of King Hamlet's death, but indirectly guilty of each subsequent death within the play.

We first realize in Act 1, Scene 2 that poor judgment is Gertrude's major character flaw. As the mother of a grieving son, Gertrude should have been more sensitive to Hamlet's feelings....

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