The Relationship Between Mother And Son In

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The Relationship Between Mother And Son In Hamlet Essay, Research Paper In many of his plays, especially tragedies, William Shakespeare examines the relationships people have with one another. Of these relationships, he is particularly interested in those between family members, above all, those between parents and their children. In his play Hamlet, Shakespeare examines Prince Hamlet’s relationships with his dead father, mother and step-father. His relationship with Gertrude, one of the only two women in the play, provides Hamlet with a deep sense of anger and pain. Hamlet feels that Gertrude has betrayed his father by marrying with his brother. Throughout the play, he is consumed with avenging his father’s death and all the mistreatment the former King had suffered and

still suffers after his life is over. Gertrude adds to the dead King’s tarnished memory by not mourning and instead rejoicing in her new marriage. Hamlet is thus extremely angry with Gertrude and expresses this anger towards her directly and indirectly through his words, both to himself and to other characters. Gertrude’s actions of marrying her husband’s brother after this king was only “two months dead” (I.ii. 138) causes Hamlet’s view on love to change. He noted that when Gertrude was with his father “he was so loving to [her]” and “she would hang on him” (I.ii. 140, 143). This is how Hamlet believed true, stable love was to be. But his mother’s ability to marry so quickly after his father’s death made Hamlet conclude that a woman’s love is fickle and

he states “frailty, thy name is woman” (I.ii. 146). By “frailty” Hamlet is not referring to a woman’s physical abilities, but rather her emotional frailty and her ability to change so quickly after having, assumingly, loved so deeply. Thus Hamlet feels that Gertrude, not only betrayed his father, but also has betrayed the sanctity of love and marriage. This altered view of love has also undoubtedly changed Hamlet’s relationship with the women he loves and who claims to love him, Ophelia. He comments on the love of a woman in general when he is seated beside Ophelia, watching the play and he asks her about the prologue. She responds “’Tis brief, my lord” for which Hamlet answers “As woman’s love” (III.ii. 137-138). Hamlet distances himself from Ophelia and

tells her that he had never loved her (III.i. 119-120). This is evidently not true when, after she dies, Hamlet declares to Laertes “I loved Ophelia. Forty thousand brothers/Could not, with all their quantity of love,/Make up my sum” (V.i. 254-256). Although, Hamlet does not really believe that Ophelia’s love for him was untrue, he does believe that her love could be as fickle as his mother’s in the future. Hamlet believes, at times, that his mother helped his uncle Claudius in killing his father. This enrages Hamlet as this is not only treason, but the greatest offence his mother could have committed. After he kills Polonius in his mother’s bedroom, mistaking him for Claudius, Gertrude comments on Hamlet’s actions saying “O, what a rash and bloody deed is this!”

(III. iv. 26). Hamlet then accuses Gertrude of conspiring to kill his father and says “A bloody deed—almost as bad, good-mother,/As kill a king and marry with his brother” (III. iv. 27-28). But Gertrude’s bewilderment in her response “As Kill a king?” (III.iv. 28) leaves Hamlet to assume that she did not kill his father and this is when he shifts from accusing his mother to warning her of her incestuous actions. He still believes that Gertrude has betrayed his father, but now he does not believe that she murdered him. This incestuous nature of Gertrude’s new marriage to her dead husband’s brother is another factor that antagonizes Hamlet. The king was only “two months dead—nay, not so much, not two,” according to Hamlet, and already Gertrude has “married