View Full Version : is Gertrude serious, or just deluding herself?

07-16-2009, 06:58 PM
Act 5, scene 1, lines 254-7:

Sweets to the sweet, farewell!
I hoped thou shouldst have been my Hamlet's wife;
I thought thy bride-bed to have decked, sweet maid,
And not have strewed thy grave.


But all though the first acts, Polonius is constantly reminding Ophelia
that someone as lowborn as her can never marry a prince—

He even reassures Claudius and Gertrude that he has warned Ophelia
to never have expectations—

Act 2, scene 2, lines 149-51:

And my young mistress thus I did bespeak:
'Lord Hamlet is a prince, out of thy star.
This must not be.'


So does Gertrude at the open grave of Ophelia say what she says?


Has some authority or other written an essay that solves this conundrum?


07-17-2009, 12:02 AM
Early on, Polonius and Laertes are over-protective of Ophelia and rather too cynical of Hamlet wooing intentions. Polonius soon changes his mind about Hamlet, attributing his dark depression to sincere, though unrequited, love. In the words of Polonius:

I am sorry that with better heed and judgment
I had not quoted him. I fear'd he did but trifle
And meant to wrack thee; but beshrew my jealousy!
By heaven, it is as proper to our age
To cast beyond ourselves in our opinions
As it is common for the younger sort
To lack discretion.

I will leave him and suddenly contrive the means of meeting between him and my daughter.


Ophelia, walk you here.- Gracious, so please you,
We will bestow ourselves.- [To Ophelia] Read on this book,
That show of such an exercise may colour
Your loneliness.- We are oft to blame in this,
'Tis too much prov'd, that with devotion's visage
And pious action we do sugar o'er
The Devil himself.

07-18-2009, 10:39 AM
yes, but that doesn't change Ophelia's class status—

even if Hamlet was sincere and wanted to marry her,

he like every other heir to any throne would be wielded into wedlock with
a neighboring country's princess for geopolitical reasons—

and Gertrude as queen would of necessity enforce that tradition,

wouldn't she?

07-18-2009, 06:14 PM
Gertrude as queen would of necessity enforce that tradition?

Likely so. Nevertheless, even a queen can treasure romantic fancies, can wish the fairy-tale wedlock of her beloved son with this angel from heaven.

Ray Eston Smith
07-20-2009, 11:55 PM
Polonius was a high-ranking court official - the Lord Chamberlain, which is about the same rank as Lord Steward. The Stewart line of Scottish kings that culminated in James VI (the incoming James I of England) had begun when the 6th High Steward of Scotland married the daughter of King Bruce. Queen Elizabeth's mother, Anne Boleyn, was a commoner (but with connections to powerful English families) - Anne's daughter became England's greatest monarch. Marrying within the kingdom cements domestic alliances and avoids foreign entanglements.

It's good for a monarch to have in-laws who are his/her subjects rather than independent monarchs. After Queen Catherine couldn't produce more heirs, Henry VIII couldn't get a divorce because Catherine's nephew was Emperor Charles V of Spain and he wouldn't allow the Pope to grant the divorce. (Kings had frequently received special annulments from the Pope - when the Pope was not surrounded by the armies of the King's in-laws.) Queen Mary's marriage to Prince Phillip of Spain almost led to the conquest of England by the Spanish Armada 30 years after Mary's death when Phillip tried "to recover of us, by strong hand / And terms compulsatory, those foresaid lands."

Polonius thought that Hamlet was just toying with Ophelia, but that's because Polonius was inclined to judge others by what he himself would do. "Observe his inclination in yourself." "I do know, / When the blood burns, how prodigal the soul / Lends the tongue vows." Claudius and Gertrude knew that Polonius was a fool ("more matter and less art") but they tolerated him because he helped prop up their power ("nor have we herein barr'd / Your better wisdoms, which have freely gone / With this affair along.").

But Gertrude understood Hamlet much better than Polonius did. She knew that Hamlet truly loved Ophelia, but perhaps she didn't understand why Hamlet loved Ophelia too much to make her, like his mother, the "imperial jointress to this warlike state."

- Ray

07-21-2009, 06:57 AM
After Queen Catherine couldn't produce more heirs, Henry VIII couldn't get a divorce because Catherine's nephew was Emperor Charles V of Spain and he wouldn't allow the Pope to grant the divorce. Is the involvement of Emperor Charles V of Spain indisputable history?

Ray Eston Smith
07-21-2009, 12:56 PM
Is the involvement of Emperor Charles V of Spain indisputable history?

All history is disputable, but this bit of history is well-documented

"The Pope, smarting from ill-treatment and grateful for the help of France and England, professed himself earnestly anxious to do what Henry desired. But he was still virtually a prisoner. . . . he said he was undone if action was taken upon it while the Germans and Spaniards remained in Italy. . . . The Papal states remaining occupied by the Imperial troops . . . . The Emperor had insisted, at Catherine's desire, that the cause should not be heard in England."

Ray Eston Smith
07-21-2009, 01:25 PM
To patch things up with Ophelia, all Hamlet had to do was up-gyve his stockings and ask Polonius for her hand in marriage. Gertrude and Claudius would not object because the marriage would be a good political match.

But that is why Hamlet now rejected Ophelia. When he was just a scholar, he probably wanted to marry Ophelia. But now that he was committed to being heir to the throne, he was no longer free to "carve for himself." If he married Ophelia now, she would become the "imperial jointress to this warlike state." Hamlet did not want to make Ophelia a "breeder of sinners."

Ray Eston Smith
07-21-2009, 06:01 PM
The notion of "disputable history" leads me irresistibly to an off-topic digression.

I believe that the past has no other reality than the records existing in the present. By "records," I don't mean just human-written records. All of the matter and energy in the current universe stores information about the past.

But there is not enough matter and energy to store a complete history of all past matter and energy. So the record is incomplete, which means that the past is not completely determined. There are many possible pasts. "The" past is the most probable of all those possible pasts. But there are many possible pasts that are tied for "most probable."

Furthermore, as time goes by, some records of the past are lost; other records are distorted. So, as time goes by, the past changes.

(Of course, human-written records are much less complete than the physical records. So what we believe was the past is even more uncertain and changeable that the "actual" past, as stored in the totality of matter and energy in today's universe.)

There's nothing new under the sun. I googled for others who share my philosophy of the past as present and found the following:


A Future for Presentism

08-17-2011, 10:26 AM
I think Gertrude is just being nice and also regretting how badly Hamlet treated Ophelia and how he spent most of his time interfering in his mother's marriage.