Does Hamlet really hate his mother?

enotes | Student

Plainly, Hamlet is disturbed by Gertrude’s welcoming Claudius into her "incestuous sheets,’’ and he is even more upset when he learns that his mother was having an affair with his uncle before his father, ur-Hamlet, is murdered. Hamlet berates his mother in Act III, scene iv, but no worse than he maligns Polonius and inexplicably denigrates Ophelia. Although the Ghost explicitly instructs Hamlet not to seek revenge upon Gertrude, but to ‘‘leave her to heaven’’ instead, we do not gain the sense that Hamlet wants to kill his mother. His sole focus is on exacting vengeance against his usurping uncle. Hamlet does not think of Gertrude as actively ‘‘evil,’’ but, instead, as passive and, above all, ‘‘weak.’’ Thus, he declares, ‘‘Frailty, thy name is woman’’ (I.ii.146). As this statement suggests, Hamlet attributes his mother’s weakness to her gender rather than her particular person. Although there is no reconciliation between Gertrude and her son, when she realizes that the dueling swords are tipped with poison, the Queen does try to warn Hamlet. In the end, Hamlet is repelled by Gertrude’s weakness, but he does not hate her in the same way that he detests his uncle.

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