Gertrude s Suicide?
In the Shakespearean tragedy “Hamlet,” Prince Hamlet s mother Gertrude encounters many misfortunes, which she feels that she is to blame for. Gertrude was brought into the middle of everybody s dilemmas and thus felt responsible for the occurrences that happened to all of the significant characters throughout the play. She allows her emotions to build up in an unhealthy manner and this leads to her eventual death. The question that surrounds her death is whether she committed suicide or led a natural demise?
This is an unknown fact because on the night of her death she drank a poisoned cup of wine which was meant for Hamlet. However there was a possibility that Gertrude knew that the wine had deadly toxins in it. Although there is no definite guarantee that she committed suicide, the evidence is overwhelming that she knew that the wine was tainted.
Prior to the opening of the drama, Gertrude was having an incestuous affair with her husbands brother, Claudius. Claudius then killed his brother (King Hamlet), and shortly after married Gertrude. Prince Hamlet could not handle this and was disgusted by the entire situation. He then decided to put on an “Antic Disposition,” meaning that he will pretend to be crazy in order to find out the details of what is going on. Gertrude observes that Hamlet is not his usual self, and she feels responsible because her remarriage is so soon after her old husbands death. This makes Gertrude feel absolutely terrible and could be a possible justification for suicide.
The Chief Counselor of Denmark, Polonius and his family, play a big role in determining the motivation of a possible suicide. Hamlet was in the midst of avenging his fathers death, to kill Claudius. He was having a conversation with his mom when he heard someone in the room spying on them. Thinking it was Claudius, he drew his sword and stabbed though the curtain where the impostor was in concealment. It turned out to be Polonius, who was now dead, and again Gertrude couldn t help but feel accountable. Polonius daughter Ophelia was affected dramatically by his death. She was romantically involved with Hamlet, and couldn t handle the fact that her boyfriend murdered her father. This destroyed Ophelia s character and led to her suicide. Polonius son Laertes, had now lost his entire family and wanted to get revenge by assassinating Hamlet. Laertes was having a meeting with Claudius and they were planning the details of how to kill Hamlet. There was a distinct possibility that Gertrude overheard their discussion, and that would be devastating to perceive the outline of your son s forthcoming murder. It could force someone into madness and drive them to commit suicide.
On the night of the incident, Laertes was to have a “friendly” sword fight with Hamlet. However, as Gertrude may have heard, Laertes sword was to be poison tipped and would kill Hamlet if it touched him. In case that plan didn t work, Hamlet would be given a poisoned glass of wine. After the first round of the sword fight, Gertrude picked up the poisoned glass of wine and proposed a toast to the fight. Claudius told her not to drink it, but she replied “I will, my lord; I pray you pardon me.” This was the first time that Gertrude didn t obey Claudius orders. The only logical explanation for this is that she didn t want to observe the death of her son.
Gertrude felt that she was the center of everybody s problems. If that was the way she truly felt then that could possibly lead her to suicide. It would also be tough to envision that the child that she had born and raised, was about to be murdered in front of her very own eyes. Therefore she decided to put an end to her miseries by making it look like she was innocently drinking the poisoned wine.