Poor Polonius – the fool finally meets his end doing what he does best – hiding behind a curtain trying to get knowledge – “by indirections, find directions out”. Adding “insult to injury” in the one and only moment that Hamlet decides to act, he kills the father of his love. Now, Ophelia is motherless, brother-less (as he has left the country), lover-less (scorned by Hamlet), and fatherless.
Hamlet acts, Ophelia feels. But this comes later in the play.
Poor Gertrude. How overwhelmed she becomes when Hamlet assaults her, kills Polonius in her closet, accuses her of conspiracy to murder, seems mad as he sees the ghost of his father, and is told by her son to abstain from physical relations with her husband.
Gertrude is an enigma in the play. She doesn’t really say or do anything that suggests she has any particular motives, nor any observable character flaws. Her name is German meaning “strong spear”, but what are we to make of Gertrude?
“Gertrude Talks Back” by Margaret Atwood
Queen Gertrude explains to Hamlet how his father’s death came about.
Gertrude: I always thought it was a mistake, calling you Hamlet. I mean, what kind of a
name is that for a young boy? It was your father’s idea… I wanted to call you George.
I know your father was handsomer than Claudius. But handsome isn’t everything, especially in a man, and far be it from me to speak ill of the dead, but your dad wasn’t a whole lot of fun. Noble, sure. But Claudius, well, he likes a drink now and then. He appreciates a decent meal. He enjoys a laugh, know what I mean?
Some days I think it would have been better for us both if you hadn’t been an only child. But you realize who you have to thank for that. Every time I felt like a little, you know, just to warm up my aging bones, it was like I suggested murder. And now you tell me you think Claudius murdered your dad? Well no wonder you’ve been so rude to him at the dinner table! If I’d known that, I could have put you straight in no time flat. It wasn’t Claudius
It was me.