"Claudius and Gertrude" by John Updike

Essay by AHitsaspyderHigh School, 10th gradeA+, May 2007

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"Claudius and Gertrude", by John Updike, is a prelude to Hamlet. It starts with a short overview of Gertrude’s childhood. However, her name was Gerthude, the name from the original Latin text of the ancient Hamlet legend from the “Historia Danica of Saxo Grammaticus.” Other names are changed as well. Claudius is named Feng, Hamlet is Amleth, and Polonius is Corambus.

Gertrude as a child was married off unwillingly at the age of 17 to Horwendil, Hamlet’s father. She does not want to be married to him, but her father presses it upon her, because he wants to make an alliance with Horwendil. She however submits to her duty, and is a gracious queen and mother. Horwendil is portrayed as being a good man; however she thinks that even though he is loyal he is not the kind of man she is looking for. He is good at fighting, but still very “unsubtle” as she says, and very coarse.

She only gives birth to one child, Amleth. Amleth (Hamlet) is a very distant child, and no matter how hard she tries she can’t relate to him. Instead of fighting and such, he tends to like to act more. He studies actors whenever they come into court, and this is reflected in Shakespeare’s play. He soon goes off to study until he is 29, which is old for their time. Gertrude thinks he should marry Ophelia, but Horwendil is opposed to it because he wants Amleth to marry to make an alliance, not for love, and especially not to his advisor’s daughter. He thinks that she and Corambus have made up a plot to do this, but she convinces him that they haven’t. She was honest in her thinking that Ophelia was right for Amleth.

Then Horwendil’s younger,