What are Gertrude's goals, passions, and worst fears?I am guessing her goals are: her son, Hamlet, to be happy after his father's sudden death? I am not sure about passions and worst fears. Can...

What are Gertrude's goals, passions, and worst fears?

I am guessing her goals are: her son, Hamlet, to be happy after his father's sudden death? I am not sure about passions and worst fears. Can someone help me out here? Use of quotations with further explanations may really help! I have a test on friday. Thank you!

Expert Answers
susan3smith eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Gertrude most likely loves Hamlet and wants him to become more cheerful.  Her first comment to him is

Cast  thy nighted color off

And let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark. (1.2)

Yet, Gertrude's major goal might be to maintain the status quo.  She seems to be one who does not easily adapt to change.  Her main reason for marrying Claudius, it seems, is to maintain the status she had as queen while married to Old Hamlet.  She seems to slip easily into the role of Claudius's wife because it does not involve change.  It seems this facet of her character is what disturbs Hamlet the most:

Within a month

Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears

Had left the flushing in her galled eyes,

She married! (1.2)

Her passions are divided between her attraction to Claudius and her love of her son.  Hamlet tries to force her to choose between the two of them, but she seems unable to do so.  In Act 3, scene 4, Hamlet confronts his mother with the truth that Claudius was indeed the murderer of her former husband. Her response is

O Hamlet, thou hast cleft my heart in twain!

Hamlet advises her to "throw away the worser part"  --her love for Claudius, but she seems unable to do so.  Throughout the rest of the play, Gertrude stands beside Claudius and though she weakly tries to protect her son, she never rebels against Claudius.  Even at the end of the play, she warns Hamlet about the poisoned drink but does not accuse Claudius of poisoning it.

Her biggest fear might be change.  She seems paralyzed to take any action that would disrupt the way things are:

To my sick soul, as sin's true nature is,

Each toy seems prologue to some great amiss.

So full of artless jealousy is guilt,

It spills itself in fearing to be spilt.

As Gertrude looks on helplessly at the mad Ophelia, she speaks the above aside--one of the few insights into her mind.  Here she expresses her fear that her guilt-- "her sick soul"-- will result in more horrible tragedy and every event that goes amiss is a reminder of her own culpability--her marriage to Claudius.   Yet, she can do nothing but continue on as before.





mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Hamlet, Gertrude wants:

  • ...Hamlet to stay with her:

Let not thy mother lose her prayers, Hamlet:
I pray thee, stay with us; go not to Wittenberg.

  • ...to obey her husband Claudius:

I shall obey you.

  • ...Ophelia to be the cause of Hamlet's madness:

And for your part, Ophelia, I do wish
That your good beauties be the happy cause
Of Hamlet's wildness:

  • ...women to stop complaining about their needs:

The lady protests too much, methinks.

  • ...to not talk about King Hamlet's death.  After Hamlet says that she has offended his father, she says:

Come, come, you (Hamlet) answer with an idle tongue.

  • ...to know what she has done to warrant Hamlet's tongue-lashig:

What have I done, that thou darest wag thy tongue
In noise so rude against me?

  • ...to not talk about her or her son's problems:

O, speak to me no more;
These words, like daggers, enter in mine ears;

  • ...Hamlet to know that Hamet has broken her heart:

O Hamlet, thou hast cleft my heart in twain.

  • ...Hamlet to go to England:

I had forgot: 'tis so concluded on.

All in all, Gertrude wants to retain her status as queen and mother.  She is in complete denial of her husbands' death, let alone his murder.  As well, she is in denial of her own sins: incest and adultery.  She also condescends to Hamlet and Ophelia, urging them to obey rather than express their own feelings.  As such, she supports the King, the male patriarchal culture, and the police-state politics of Denmark.  In short, she is happy to be blind to the lies and madness around her.  Ironically, she begins only to see that Denmark is a prison and that her husband is a villain only after she has been poisoned by him.