Hamlet Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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Claudius demands the Queen to explain Hamlet's behavior, she claims he is insane. Does she really believe that Hamlet is mad or is she protecting him? ACT IV, i, 1-27

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The short first scene of Act IV centres around Gertrude's betrayal of Hamlet. Although she does honour Hamlet's request to not tell Claudius that he is only feigning madness, it is clear that, having promised to help her son, Gertrude turns him in to her husband. The immediate and extremely frank way...

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amberangel | Student

I see Gertrude as a rather oblivious character. To me, I would say she is only saying what she thinks. What is she protecting him against if she doesnt know Claudius killed King Hamlet?

frizzyperm | Student

A mother would not willingly betray her son to a dangerous murderer. Try to see this from Gertrude's POV. This evening Hamlet had behaved very strangely in public at 'the play'. The evening was a complete disaster that will start all sorts of gossip and problems. She believes Hamlet is deranged and that he has somehow made her new husband very scared and angry with his childish antics at the play. She has summoned him to her bedroom to give him a strict telling off and to try and bring him to his senses.

Then Hamlet rushes into her bedroom, yelling and shouting about her sex life and morality. He practically physically attacks her, making her cry for help in fear he might kill her. This makes Polonius cry out for the guards. Then Hamlet pulls out his sword and murders Denmark's most senior politician for no reason Gertrude can see. Hamlet then goes right back to shouting at her about her marriage, while the old man's blood pools on the floor. Then suddenly, mid-rant, Hamlet stops, points horrified at the empty air and has a conversation with a ghost that Gertrude can't see at all.

Is this sane behaviour from Gertrude's point of view? Is this just 'acting' mad?

Gertrude is truly terrified for her son's well-being. She doesn't betray him, she tries to help him. She still doesn't know Claudius is a murderer, she tells the king that Hamlet is mad because she wants to help Hamlet.