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The Ghost also speaks of Gertrude’s sexuality when he bitterly laments: The Ghost cites Gertrude’s voracious lust as the cause of her swift marriage to his brother (the ‘garbage’ in this metaphor).
Gertrude’s role has traditionally been seen as passive, with critics often discounting the few, short, speeches she makes as merely the reflection of her male counterparts’ thoughts and opinions.
Yet upon closer analysis, her speech proves to be invariably direct, insightful and innuendo-free.
These two events are the cause of Hamlet’s distress and disgust in Act 1, and form the basis of the revenge plot.
However, Shakespeare deliberately leaves the extent of Gertrude’s historic involvement with Claudius (as both his lover and potential accomplice in murder) unclear.
Gertrude’s persona, in this version of the play, is consistent with the Hamlets’ view of her as shallow and lustful.
Speaking as Gertrude in interview, Downie declared, ‘I was just very pleased that I could have what I wanted, which was Claudius and the crown’.
Gertrude’s suffering at these revelations is genuine; her repeated requests for ‘sweet Hamlet’ (3.4.88) to ‘speak to me no more’ (3.4.86) belie the shame that she now feels.
Her reaction is such that even the Ghost, a previous critic, observes that ‘amazement on thy mother sits’ (3.4.104) and warns Hamlet not to distress her further.
Gertrude is therefore enigmatic, and because of this her character struggles to define itself against the Hamlets’ explicit opening opinions.
However, the strength and complexities of Gertrude’s personality do emerge as the play progresses and she is forced to confront the realities of her situation.