Gertrude Hamlet Essay Prompt

Below you will find five outstanding thesis statements for Hamlet by William Shakespeare that can be used as essay starters or paper topics. All five incorporate at least one of the themes found in Shakespeare’s Hamlet and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements offer a short summary of Hamlet in terms of  different elements that could be important in an essay. You are, of course, free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them for your essay. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from Hamlet by William Shakespeare at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent essay.

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1: Hamlet’s Preoccupation with Philosophy

One of the most famous Shakepearean lines—“To be or not to be, that is the question” is found in Hamlet, spoken by the title character himself. While this is the most obvious reference that Hamlet makes to his own philosophy, Hamlet makes frequent proclamations about his philosophy of life. Hamlet’s philosophy touches not only on the subject of love, but also about loyalty, family, and the virtue of suffering, among other themes. His philosophy, summed up in the “To be or not to be” (click here for a full analysis of the “to be or not to be” speech)  soliloquy and reflected in his actions, might not be comfortable for all characters or all readers. Hamlet’s philosophy is particular to his own strange obsessions, and help explain the fates of the characters in the play.

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: Hamlet’s View of Love

Because Hamlet has been disillusioned about love by his mother’s actions, he rejects the possibility that romantic love is an important part of human relationships. He is consumed by the outrageousness of his mother’s love for his uncle, and he rejects Ophelia’s love for him, though he admitted once to loving her. Although Hamlet is justified to feel disgust towards his mother and her actions, his pessimistic view of love has dreadful implications, not just for him, but for other characters as well. For this essay on Hamlet, you might want to take a character analysis approach to Hamlet with this theme as your guide or thesis statement.

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3: Taboos in Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Many of Shakespeare’s plays involve transgressions that violate social taboos. Hamlet is no exception. In this play, numerous social norms are violated; however, the most powerful taboo is that of incest. Hamlet is outraged when his mother marries his uncle shortly after the death of his father, and his mother’s action causes him to lose faith in love. Although the incest taboo may seem grotesque, Shakespeare puts his characters in such dynamic tension and outrageous situations in order to make profound observations about the nature of both familial and romantic love.

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #4: Unmanly Grief in Hamlet

Claudius could hardly be considered to be a model of upright behavior and insight, given that he seduces Gertrude while the grief over her husband’s death is still fresh. While he is obviously advancing his own motives, his speech to Hamlet about “unmanly grief” is oddly compelling. Claudius takes the view that all men die, all men lose their fathers. They enter a period of appropriate grief and then move on. Because Hamlet is not conforming to this norm, Claudius suggests that Hamlet’s grief is not only unhealthy, but unmanly. A close reading of the play supports Claudius’s observation. Although Claudius is certainly not free from reproach, Hamlet’s obsessional grief is not praiseworthy either.

Thesis Statement/Essay Topic #5: The Role of Women in Hamlet

The female characters in Shakespeare’s Hamlet are a complicated lot. Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother, is much maligned for her sexual and romantic alliance with Hamlet’s own uncle. Ophelia is portrayed as a woman who is so consumed with love for Hamlet that she is willing to sacrifice her life for him. Through these two very different characters, Shakespeare portrays women negatively in limited roles. Women have no chance for redemption, and are subject to the decisions that men make for them.

A few articles that might offer some guidance with these thesis statements for Hamlet include :


This list of important quotations from Hamlet by William Shakespeare will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements above by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes from Hamlet listed here correspond, at least in some way, to the paper topics above and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes and explanations about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned and explained.  Aside from the thesis statements above, these quotes alone can act as essay questions or study questions as they are all relevant to the text in an important way. All quotes contain page numbers as well. Look at the bottom of the page to identify which edition of Shakespeare’s Hamlet they are referring to.

“Tis sweet and commendable in your nature, Hamlet, To give these mourning duties to your father. But you must know your father lost a father, that father lost, lost his, and the survivor bound in filial obligation for some term to do obsequious sorrow. But to persevere in obstinate condolement is a course of impious stubborness, tis unmanly grief….” (I.ii. ll. 87-94).

“O God, God, How stale, flat, and unprofitable seem to me all the uses of this world!.” (I.ii.132-134).

“Within a month, Ere, yet the salt of most unrighteous tears had left the flushing in her galled eyes, Shemarried–O most wicked speed, to post with such dexterity to incestuous sheets, It is not, nor it cannot come to good…” (I.ii.153-57).

“Be wary then, best safety lies in fear….” (I.ii.43)

“Ay, that incestuous, that adulterate beast… who won to his shameful lust The will of my most seeming virtuous queen.” (I.v.42-46)

“There are more things in heaven and earth,…Than are dreamt of in your philosophy….” (II.i.166-167)

“This must be known, which, being kept close, might move More grief to hid, than hate to utter love.” (II.i.113-115)

“To be or not to be, that is the question: Whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing, end them.” (III.i.55-59)

“Be not too tame neither, but your own discretion be your tutor.” (III.ii.16)

Reference:  Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. In The Riverside Shakespeare. Eds. G. Blakemore Evans and J.J.M. Tobin. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1997. 1189-1234.

Role of Gertrude in Hamlet

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Raquel Tuohy Mrs. Pastor AP Lit/Comp 7 April 2013 Hamlet Perhaps one of the most ambiguous characters in Shakespeare’s Hamlet is the queen, Gertrude. She is Hamlet’s mother and the wife of her dead husband’s brother, King Claudius. As the reader, we only see her briefly, but she still manages to be a central figure in Hamlet playing the role of the elusive and sometimes shallow queen. There are several questions surround the life of Queen Gertrude, starting with even before the play, having to do with the death of her husband, Hamlet’s father.

When the play starts, she has already remarried to Hamlet’s Uncle Claudius within such a short amount of time. This is rather surprising and revolting to her son Hamlet, who is still grieving over the loss of his father, but it appears that his mother has already moved on. That could only suggest that perhaps Gertrude was cheating on the king with her brother and her husband’s death was all but convenient for her. The ghost of Hamlet’s father gives his son disturbing information about the queen, calling her “that incestuous, that adulterate beast,” (Act I, Scene I).

However, there is no definitive proof, nor Shakespeare ever addresses it in the play, leaving his audience with a sense of wonder about the queen’s devotion to her husband. The thing that might intrigue the reader the most about the character of Gertrude is why she married Claudius so suddenly after her husband’s death. Was it because she knew that she needed a man to help her rule? Or was the meaning behind the courtship less malevolent than it appears? There lies the most important question: was it true love or was it politics that brought Claudius and Gertrude together?

Hamlet paints the picture of Gertrude as an obedient and devoted woman to his father, but his opinion transforms during the queen’s second marriage. Hamlet doesn’t understand why Gertrude, who is labeled as the “th’imperial jointress” (Act I, Scene I) to the throne of Denmark, would need to marry someone so rapidly when she already wields power in the royal family. Possibly the most haunting question about Gertrude’s character is whether or not she knows Claudius killed her first husband. This also ties in with the question about Gertrude’s fidelity.

If she did cheat on the former king with Claudius than chances are she more than likely had a role in her first husband’s death. Claudius would consider her as an accomplice and confide in her, but he never does throughout Hamlet. Furthermore, Gertrude expresses strong emotions about Ophelia and Hamlet, but never for Claudius, which is strange because they are married. Claudius tells Gertrude that he loves her, but she doesn’t return the sentiment, which again is bizarre because they are husband and wife.

There are no definitive textual references about Gertrude’s involvement in her first husband’s poisoning. It just is another element of Gertrude’s character that is shrouded in mystery. One redeeming quality about the queen is her unwavering loyalty to Hamlet. She loves her son despite his obvious hostility towards her for marrying Claudius. Plus, Gertrude continues to stand behind him even when he lashes out at her, saying the worse possible things a son could say to his mother.

When Hamlet kills Polonius in a moment of madness, Gertrude realizes that she has to tell the king that her son was the one who committed the murder, but she lies to her husband to protect her son. She tells Claudius that Hamlet is contrite and “weeps for what he has done” (Act IV, Scene I), in order to lessen the punishment that is sure to be inflicted on Hamlet by Claudius. In the final scene of the play, Gertrude expresses her deep concern for Hamlet when he wants to duel Laertes who is grieving over the loss of his father and sister and blames Hamlet for their deaths.

At the end of the duel, Gertrude even drinks the wine for Hamlet, not knowing it is laden with poison. Or does she? It is still debated by scholars whether Gertrude knew the wine was toxic or not, but regardless, she didn’t have to drink it. She drank it for Hamlet because her maternal instincts triumphed over Claudius’ warning to leave the poisonous glass of wine alone. Another issue that comes up time in time again in Shakespeare’s play is Hamlet’s fascination, boarding on obsession, with Gertrude’s sex life. It’s trange for a son to be interested in what his mother does behind closed doors, but this piqued curiosity seemed to have started around the time of Gertrude’s second marriage to Claudius. Early on in the play, the reader learns that Hamlet is shaken by his mother’s hasty marriage to Claudius, leading Hamlet to believe that the world is contaminated, like an “unweeded garden” that’s “gross and rank in nature” (Act I, Scene 2). Hamlet’s opinion of his mother may color the reader’s view of Gertrude, seeing her as a vile woman who jumps from one man to the next.

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There are more questions than answers surrounding Gertrude, the queen of Denmark. We don’t know if she was unfaithful or if she was complicit with Claudius in the murder of her first husband. However, the one attribute in Gertrude that nobody can dispute is the depth of love that she posses for her son. Gertrude is Shakespeare’s most mysterious character because she in intricately woven throughout the play, but her motives remain unclear to the readers.

Author: Brandon Johnson

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Role of Gertrude in Hamlet

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