Critical Essay Gertrude Hamlet
Her worry over him continues into the second act, as she sides with King Claudius in sending Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to raise the spirits of her son.
Also, rather than ascribing Hamlet's sudden madness to Ophelia's rejection (as thought by Polonius), she believes the cause to be his father, King Hamlet's death and her quick, subsequent marriage to Claudius: "I doubt it is no other but the main; His father's death and our o'erhasty marriage." In Act three, she eagerly listens to the report of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern on their attempt to cheer him, and supports the King and Polonius' plan to watch Hamlet from a hidden vantage point as he speaks with Ophelia, with the hope that her presence will heal him.
It could be argued that as she does not confess to any sins before she dies, she did not participate in her husband's murder.
According to Hamlet, she scarcely mourned her husband's death before marrying Claudius.
In this reading, Hamlet is disgusted by his mother's "incestuous" relationship with Claudius while simultaneously fearful of killing him, as this would clear Hamlet's path to his mother's bed.
Carolyn Heilbrun's 1957 essay "Hamlet's Mother" defends Gertrude, arguing that the text never hints that Gertrude knew of Claudius poisoning King Hamlet.
In the next act, Gertrude tells Claudius of Polonius' murder, convinced that Hamlet is truly mad.
She also shows genuine compassion and affection as she watches along with others as Ophelia sings and acts in absolute madness.