In Hamlet, does Gertrude know of Claudius' guilt?

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In the play, it seems that Gertrude is unaware of Claudius's guilt in the murder of her husband, the old King Hamlet. As the old king's ghost says to his son,

Ay, that incestuous, that adulterate beast, [Claudius,]
With witchcraft of his wit, with traitorous gifts—
O wicked wit and gifts, that have the power
So to seduce!—won to his shameful lust
The will of my most seeming-virtuous queen.
O Hamlet, what a falling off was there!

In other words, then, the ghost , who knows of Claudius's guilt in his murder, does not think that Gertrude had any knowledge of the murder. He blames her for being seduced by...

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rienzi | Student

First, Hamlet is fiction. There are no undiscovered realities behind the text. But, that never stops one from trying to generate a good book. Second, though Hamlet initially suspects some complicity from his mother in the death of King Hamlet, that is erased with "The Mousetrap". To differentiate from "The Murder of Gonzago", "The Mousetrap" is Hamlet's attempt to catch the conscience of the Queen. That's why it is called "The Mousetrap". In the closet scene (3.4) as Hamlet lectures his mother he says:

Let the bloat king tempt you again to bed;
Pinch wanton on your cheek; call you his mouse; 

That first scene of the play-within-the-play is directed by Hamlet directly at Gertrude. Of course she passes the test. So when Hamlet arrives at Gertrude's closet it is at the Queen's behest through Polonius, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Hamlet's accusations against Gertrude are in response to her accusation against him. They address her lust and her lack of remembrance and judgment.

Third, It is ridiculous to suggest a Gertrude, complicit with her brother-in-law in the very murder just played out on stage, would then confront Hamlet, in her closet, exposing her conscience to him. Gertrude, sees "The Murder of Gonzago"  scene as a sick joke, not the revelation that Claudius sees. Enacting as it does a nephew killing his uncle for the crown. That's what draws accusation, "Hamlet, thou hast thy father much offended." Her guilt is as the Ghost revealed nothing more. Her reactions through the middle part of the play are consistent with that and actually play their part as elements in the thematic development of the play. In other words, Shakespeare already has Gertrude's character plugged into important themes in the play. Gertrude's is not another Lady Macbeth. Were his interest in portraying Gertrude as a co-conspirator, it would be more obvious. For example, the brief scene in 2.2 where Polonius exits to retrieve Cornelius and Voltimand, the ambassadors returned from Norway. While the two are alone on stage, Claudius says to Gertrude that Polonius has found the cause of Hamlet's distemper. Gertrude then offers that it is none other than the death of Hamlet's father and their "o'erhasty marriage." This scene would be prime for the opportunity for these two to express their concern about the murder and what if anything Hamlet could know.

Finally, from Claudius's point of view, I don't see how Gertrude's involvement could help him. Claudius's plan was very simple and needed no help from Gertrude. Involving her could only endanger the enterprise. There really is no arguable basis to claim that Gertrude was involved in way with the death of her first husband.

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