Hamlet’s mother, Claudius’s wife, and the Queen of Denmark. One of only two female characters in the play (along with Ophelia), Gertrude’s arc throughout the drama is perhaps most representative of the theme of women. Gertrude marries her brother-in-law, Claudius, very shortly after the death of her husband—an action perceived as cruel, obscene, lustful, and opportunistic by her son, Hamlet. In reality, this choice is one of the few options available to a woman of Gertrude’s time: a woman whose political safety and social standing is entirely dependent on her connection to and protection from a powerful man. Gertrude, then, is one of the play’s most complex characters, and one whose motives and truest nature are often obscured. For instance, when Hamlet confronts Gertrude about her choices, she admits that looking inward at her own choices—and considering the idea that her new husband murdered her old one—is too painful. Whether Gertrude is aware of Claudius’s murderous ambition on any level remains up for debate, but what is clear is that no matter how much she knows, she is willing to tamp it down in order to selfishly secure her own sociopolitical safety. Gertrude’s arc also ties in with the play’s theme of action and inaction—if, as the text overwhelmingly suggests, Gertrude knew that her husband was murdered by his brother and married Claudius anyway, then that choice is perhaps the play’s most profound example of how both action and inaction can have complex moral implications.
Gertrude Quotes in Hamlet
The Hamlet quotes below are all either spoken by Gertrude or refer to Gertrude. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one: Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Simon & Schuster edition of Hamlet published in 1992.).
Act 1, Scene 2 Quotes
Seems, madam! Nay, it is; I know not “seems.”
Frailty, thy name is woman!
Gertrude Character Timeline in Hamlet
The timeline below shows where the character Gertrude appears in Hamlet. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 2
...of Elsinore, Claudius—the new king of Denmark—is holding court. With him are his new wife Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother and the queen; Hamlet himself; Claudius’s councilor Polonius; Polonius’s children Laertes and Ophelia;... (full context)
...“impious stubbornness.” Such outward displays of grief, Claudius says, are “unmanly” and undignified. Claudius echoes Gertrude, assuring Hamlet that death is normal, and to mourn it so is a kind of... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 2
Act 3, Scene 1
...should make one final attempt to get to the root of Hamlet’s madness by having Gertrude confront her son. Claudius agrees with Polonius’s advice, stating that Hamlet must be closely observed. (full context)
Act 3, Scene 2
...in the king’s ear, killing him, at which point Claudius stands up from his seat. Gertrude asks Claudius what’s wrong, and he announces that he is leaving. Polonius orders the players... (full context)
...go tell his mother that he’ll be with her shortly. Polonius goes off to inform Gertrude of the news, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern follow him. Left alone, Hamlet remarks that it... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 3
...and Guildenstern leave, Polonius enters and tells Claudius that Hamlet is on his way to Gertrude’s room. Polonius plans to hide himself behind a tapestry—again—and listen in on their conversation so... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 4
Act 4, Scene 1
...go find Hamlet and bring Polonius’s body to the chapel. They hurry off. Claudius tells Gertrude it’s time to “call up [their] wisest friends,” tell them all the truth about Hamlet,... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 5
...“cold ground”—she swears she will inform her brother of what has happened. Bidding Claudius and Gertrude “good night,” she leaves the hall. Claudius asks Horatio to follow Ophelia and keep an... (full context)
...the support of the Danish people, who cry in the streets “Laertes shall be king!” Gertrude is scandalized. There is another loud noise—Claudius realizes the rebels have broken down the door. (full context)
Act 4, Scene 7
...murderer, Hamlet. Claudius says there are two reasons he hasn’t killed Hamlet: one being that Gertrude loves him, and the other being that the commoners love him as well. Laertes says... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 1
...dives into Ophelia’s grave. Laertes curses Hamlet, and the two of them begin fighting. Claudius, Gertrude, and Horatio all beg for the men to stop fighting, and a pair of courtiers... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 2
...refuses it, stating he’ll drink it later. In the second round, Hamlet hits Laertes again. Gertrude, thrilled, picks up Hamlet’s cup and drinks to his success. Claudius, in an aside, laments... (full context)
...sword. Claudius asks for the fight to stop, but Hamlet is determined to keep dueling. Gertrude collapses, to everyone’s horror, and Laertes quickly follows, lamenting that he is “a woodcock to... (full context)