Who is Gertrude, and why is she important to the plot of William Shakespeare's play Hamlet, Prince of Denmark?

Expert Answers
kiwi eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Gertrude is the Hamlet of the title's mother, and widow to his father also called Hamlet. It is after the death of his father and Gertrude's marriage to her brother-in-law, Claudius, that Hamlet's depression and distress begins. Her actions in marrying Claudius in what can be seen as immodest haste are central to the play. Hamlet summarises the events as he sees them in Act 1 acene ii-

Frailty, thy name is woman—
A little month, or ere those shoes were old
With which she follow'd my poor father's body
Like Niobe, all tears—why she, even she—
O God! a beast that wants discourse of reason
Would have mourn'd longer—married with my uncle,

Hamlet is grieving and also tormented by his mother's seeming deception of his father. His anxieties are further intensified when his father's ghost reveals that he was murdered by Claudius, and requests that his murder be avenged-

If thou hast nature in thee, bear it not.
Let not the royal bed of Denmark be
A couch for luxury and damned incest.

At the end of the play, Gertrude dies from drinking a poisoned cup meant for her son.