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Gertrude and Claudius and "Hamlet" Essay
This paper discusses John Updike's "Gertrude and Claudius" and Shakespeare's "Hamlet" upon which Updike based this novel.
This paper explains that John Updike's novel "Gertrude and Claudius" attempts to provide a past history for the Hamlet's mother Gertrude but creates a far different woman than the sensual, guilty lady of the Jacobean drama "Hamlet." The author points out that what is so interesting about Updike's version of the tale is, although the plot of the novel is virtually the same as the drama, Updike takes a completely different view of middle-aged sexuality. The paper relates that, in the Shakespearean play, Hamlet dominates the action and there are only fleeting glimpses of Gertrude's greater psychology; whereas, in Updike's version, Gertrude is at the center of the drama.
Updike portrays a much more beautiful vision of middle-aged sexuality than young Hamlet's mind can possibly dream of. Updike's Gertrude did not 'sink' into moral turpitude, changing from a weeping widow to a lusty bride, as her son tells the audience. Why she would hang on him/As if increase of appetite had grown/ By what it fed on, and yet within a month.... With which she followed my poor father's body, Like Niobe, al tears.... married with mine uncle." (1.2.144-149) Rather, the carnal pleasures Gertrude enjoyed with Claudius in Updike's vision were her first experiences of a full sensuality. When Claudius and Gertrude first enjoy a night together, Updike writes, "Surges of sensation in her lower parts lifted her so high her voice was flung from her like a bird's lost call.