The Shakesperian Blonde Essay, Research Paper
What does William Shakespeare have to say about women? Quite a bit, actually. But his writing of the character Gertrude in his play Hamlet can be clearly seen to tie in with one viewpoint of women: the weaker-sex. To be fair, it must be said that he presents both sides of the issue, but let Gertrude be the focus of this study. Gertrude is a shallow, flighty, sensual woman, whose character is summarized by Hamlet in the words, Frailty, thy name is woman.
Clearly, Gertrude is presented as a character that is more than slightly cranially vacant. Indeed, one might suppose that Gertrude is one giant blonde joke written by Shakespeare. First, one may observe her observance upon observing the play in act three. When Hamlet asks her about how she likes the play she says, The lady [the player queen] doth protest too much, methinks. (3.2.254) The queen seems to be missing the point of the play completely. Furthermore, observe the real protester! Gertrude is making a royal joke of herself by protesting the protesting of a queen. Then, consider her advice to Hamlet upon the loss of a father:
Good Hamlet, cast thy nighted colour off,
And let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark.
Do not for ever with thy vailed lids
Seek for thy noble father in the dust:
Thou know’st ’tis common; all that lives must die,
Passing through nature to eternity. (1.2.70-75)
From this it is clear that her heart is as shallow as her head. She refers to death as a common thing; in that time common carried with it implications that something was vulgar. A less Shakespearian way to say the selfsame thing is, Dad s dead. Deal with it! Her insensitivity to both the death of her husband and the feelings of her son indicate that her heart is a chilly pool no deeper than a finger s width. Once more, the queen demonstrates her ocean-depth of shallowness with her questions toward Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. After sending them on a reconnaissance mission in Hamlet s distracted globe, she proceeds to question them rigorously after what they had discovered with questions like, Did he receive you well? (3.1.11) and Did you assay him to any pastime? (3.1.16) Yes, indeed! Gertrude s son is sick in the head and every time these ever-so-patient young men try to explain what they think is wrong with him, Gertrude disrupts the flow of conversation with a empty-headed inquiry. Shakespeare clearly presents Gertrude as a shallow individual.
Equally, his presentation of Gertrude s flightiness is clear. Gertrude did not seem to stick to any one thing for very long. Nay, even her husband failed to snare her tenacity. Hamlet, rightfully distressed, addressed the issue quite directly in an aside during the play s second scene. Let me not think on’t–Frailty, thy name is woman!– / A little month, or ere those shoes were old/With which she follow’d my poor father’s body, (1.2.152-153) Gertrude waited not even a month tween spouses. Shakespeare made a special effort to show this characteristic by having it said outright by the player king to the player queen who represents Gertrude. What to ourselves in passion we propose, / The passion ending, doth the purpose lose. (3.2.118-119) Shakespeare is saying here that Gertrude s purpose loses context with her passions passions that ebb and flow as the cycles of the moon.
Naturally, Shakespeare had to play to the groundlings, too. No Shakespearian play would be complete without lewd, bawdy comments and plot. And so, as if predicting and perfecting the stereotypical blonde, he presents Gertrude as a sensual, physical woman. When Gertrude s husband died, she waited not a single lunar cycle before finding the next best thing, her brother-in-law. As they were brothers, they must have looked alike, enhancing the effect Gertrude s physical attraction to him. But as Hamlet discovered, dear dead dad had a few choice words to say regarding his ex-wife s behavior:
But virtue, as it never will be moved,
Though lewdness court it in a shape of heaven,
So lust, though to a radiant angel link’d,
Will sate itself in a celestial bed,
And prey on garbage. (1.5.60-64)
The ghost of Hamlet past is accounting guilt to Gertrude s sex drive. And as he knew her more intimately than any other person knew her, his accounting should be heavily weighted. And then, perhaps, the most telling sign of all is Gertrude s reaction to Hamlet s barb. Whilst the consanguineous pair discussed things in the Queen s closet, Hamlet pricks her with a comment about her physical nature.
Nay, but to live
In the rank sweat of an enseamed bed,
Stew’d in corruption, honeying and making love
Over the nasty sty
O, speak to me no more;
These words, like daggers, enter in mine ears;
No more, sweet Hamlet! (3.4.103-109)
The queen is struck to the quick by Hamlets barbs against her physical nature. The place that one is the most sensitive is also the place where one gathers the most pleasure. Shakespeare presented Gertrude as a character that was keen in a physical way.
Gertrude possesses a depth of spirit measured in angstroms, an attention span that rivals the half-life cesium, and a sex drive to move planets. Gertrude is the Shakespearian blonde: shallow, flighty, and sensual. Shakespeare has excelled in presenting the weaker-sex.