Queen Gertrude, mother to Hamlet, is one of Shakespeare’s most enigmatic characters. She stands in stark contrast to her son, as she is driven by emotion rather than reflection. She is affectionate, impulsive, and strong-willed, but not particularly intelligent. Despite this, Gertrude is not completely unsympathetic, as she tries to protect Hamlet from Claudius’s wrath in Act 4, Scene 1. She also covers up Hamlet’s indifferent attitude when describing his murder of Polonius to Claudius. This may indicate her realization that Claudius is not all that he seems to be. At the end of the scene, Gertrude finally understands the truth when she realizes the cup contains poison. Before this, she had offered the wine to her son to help him in his challenge against Laertes. In Act 4, Scene 5, Gertrude expresses her guilt over Polonius’s death, as she knew he was hiding behind the arras and did not alert Hamlet to his presence. Her countenance is dramatically changed from her previous joviality, as she is now fearful and suspicious. To conclude, in Act 4 Gertrude is first defensive of Hamlet, her son, as she tries to protect him from danger. Then in Scene 5 she is shown as anxious and guilty, as she feels her remorse spilling out at will.
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