The Tragedy of Queen Gertrude (digital download)

The Tragedy of Queen Gertrude (digital download)

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The Tragedy of Queen Gertrude (digital download)

This downloadable PDF contains extracts from the "full" text of Hamlet, creating an abbreviated play with the character of Gertrude, rather than Hamlet, at its center. Read more about this special text: 

The narrative of Queen Gertrude begins with a statement by King Claudius. How does the stage director establish that this is her narrative, not that of Claudius? From among the director’s many options, picture the darkened stage with a pair of elevated thrones. Picture Gertrude in one of the thrones, the other being empty and unlit. Off to the side in relative darkness, Claudius begins his description of the current state of Denmark. As he speaks of the death of (King) Hamlet, the empty throne is lit, and as he speaks of the nobles approving his marriage to Gertrude, the widow of old King Hamlet, Claudius steps up into the light and takes his seat next to Gertrude.

It is Queen Gertrude who expands the horizon of Hamlet’s melancholy when she notes that it might be a function of “his father’s death, and our o’erhasty marriage.” Only Gertrude is witness to Hamlet’s behavior in the closet scene, and curiously, both readers and theater goers are reminded of her importance in Act IV Scene 7 when she is not even on the stage. The King explains that his devotion to Queen Gertrude and the Queen’s devotion to Hamlet are the reasons he has to be cautious.

The Queen traces the arc of Ophelia’s madness, and the Queen is at the heart of the graveyard scene. Her role is decisive in the final scene with her dying cry, calling attention to “the cup” and “I am pioson’d,” revealing the King’s treachery and precipitating the confession of Laertes that “the King’s to blame.” 

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