The famous British playwright, William Shakespeare, explored the issue of paternal and maternal love in most of his works. His plays, without any doubt address, a lot of problems regarding family relationships and ties. Both the good and the bad aspects of it. Later in his studies, Sigmund Freud uses Shakespeare’s works to explain some fundamental problems, complexes, and psychological conditions common for humans.
Hamlet is by far the playwright’s most well-known work. It brings attention to the relationships between Hamlet, his father, his mother, and his uncle Claudius. This specific paper addresses Hamlet and Gertrude’s relationship.
Who is Hamlet’s Mother in the Play?
Hamlet’s mother is Gertrude, who is one of the few women featured in the play. The author uses her relationships with her son to depict an act of betrayal. The reader quickly learns that Hamlet is upset with his mother because she married Hamlet’s uncle instead of grieving for his father.
Hamlet sees it as an act of betrayal.
Throughout the book, Hamlet develops a plan of revenge for the death of his father, the king. He desires to take vengeance on his mother for moving on so quickly as well. All of it makes Hamlet change his attitude towards love and his mother. Hamlet is convinced that his mother never loved his father. Hamlet is deeply affected by the bond between Claudius and Hamlet’s mother, and he rejects this marriage.
It also affects Hamlet’s view of women in general.
Hamlet’s Relationships with Women
Hamlet has precarious relationships with his mother and Ophelia. He has no respect for both of the women, and he openly harasses them. At the beginning of the play, Hamlet’s feelings toward Ophelia seem very genius. However, later on, the readers see that he has trouble connecting with her. The same goes for his mother. The readers can draw a reasonable conclusion that Hamlet would have problems having stable relationships with women in general. His general attitude towards the only female characters is negative.
He believes that all women are untrustworthy and superficial. Later in the essay, this will be explored more.
Hamlet and Ophelia
As previously noted, Hamlet has a complicated relationship with his mother, which affects his relationships with Ophelia. In the past, he used to love her, but Gertrude’s actions destroyed Hamlet’s views on love.
As the play progresses, the gap between the two lovers only grows. It reaches a point where Hamlet openly states that he doesn’t love Ophelia any longer. However, after Ophelia’s death, he realizes that he loved her. He confesses to Laertes that no amount of love could match his passion for her.
The audience realizes that Hamlet’s rejection comes from a place of fear. He is afraid that Ophelia does not really love him and will betray him just like Gertrude betrayed his father. Hamlet thinks that all women have a deceptive nature and trap men with their beauty. Hamlet says, “I have heard of your paintings too, well enough. God has given you one face, and you make yourselves another. You jig and amble, and you lisp, you nickname God’s creatures and make your wantonness your ignorance.” This statement emphasizes Hamlet’s lack of faith in women.
After Ophelia loses her father and Hamlet’s love, she goes mad. Gertrude tries to avoid Ophelia because she probably feels responsible for it. At the same time, Hamlet feels no guilt for killing Polonius.
Interestingly, Hamlet never shows any signs of guilt over Ophelia’s death, either. Ophelia was used by Hamlet to prove to Claudius that Hamlet is really insane. However, it resulted in Ophelia’s madness and suicide.
Hamlet and His Mother
Throughout the play, Hamlet’s relationships between the mother of Hamlet and him are deteriorating. In the beginning, we see that Hamlet has neutral relationships with her. While by the end of the play, it turns into active aggression.
In the first soliloquy, Hamlet tells about his disturbed feelings. He is not only mourning his father but also feels angry because of his mother’s quick marriage to his father’s brother. Hamlet even shows disgust to himself because he is the son of Queen Gertrude. It happened because Gertrude’s actions instilled a lot of anger in Hamlet.
He ended up believing that his father’s death was his mother’s fault. During the closet scene, Hamlet ends up killing Polonius while thinking it was Claudius. This murder was completely impulsive. Hamlet moves from plotting the murder to committing it.
After that, he accuses his mother of conspiring with Claudius and blames her for his father’s death.
However, after talking to her son, she feels ashamed of her actions as well. She says, “O Hamlet! Speak no more; Thou turn’ st mine eyes into my very soul; And there I see such black and grained spots As will not leave their tinct”.
She also says that she did not know that Claudius killed her late husband. After this conversation, their relationships start to change for the better. This episode is significant for both Hamlet and Gertrude. Before confronting his mother, Hamlet cannot move with the plan for revenge.
Hamlet continues pretending to be mad, and Gertrude assures Claudius it is true. Claudius believes in Hamlet’s madness. He prepares a poisonous drink for Hamlet. However, Gertrude picks it up and drinks it. It shows her loyalty to her son.
Hamlet and Gertrude Relationship: Love & Vengeance
The relationships Hamlet has with his mother are more than complex. In Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams, he says, “Hamlet is able to do anything except take vengeance on the man who got away with his father and took that father’s place with his mother, the man who shows him the repressed wishes of his own childhood realized.” Freud argued that Hamlet’s procrastination to kill Claudius has to do with a deep association Hamlet makes with him. Claudius is a representation of Hamlet’s desires and wishes. He is the representation of Hamlet’s Oedipal complex. According to Freud, Claudius is “the man who shows him [Hamlet] the repressed wishes of his own childhood realized.”
The name Oedipus complex comes from the play by Sophocles. Oedipus is a play where the main character fulfills the prophecy given to him at birth by murdering his father and marrying his mother. In Hamlet, Claudius is the one who acts before Hamlet. Claudius also becomes Hamlet’s stepfather, which allows Hamlet to unlock the taboo and kill him.
Even though Hamlet is deeply hurt, he does not wish to hurt his mother. It shows that he genuinely loves her. He tries to reason with her and convinces her to undertake revenge. At the end of the play, their mother-son relationship is restored.
- Caxton, Charles. Commentary on Hamlet. 2006, New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc.
- Faulkner, William. The Hamlet Commentary. 2008, New York: Thumshire publishers.
- Friedlander, Gibson. Enjoying Hamlet by William Shakespeare. 2010, London: P. Press.
- Horatio, Joseph. Enjoying Hamlet. 2010, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Shakespeare, William. Hamlet: The Norton Shakespeare. 1997, New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc.