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Gertrude Talks Back by Margaret Atwood

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by

Komal Choudhary

on 8 February 2011

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Transcript of Gertrude Talks Back by Margaret Atwood

Gertrude Talks Back Dramatic Situation: Gertrude is actually speaking her mind when Hamlet so rudely confronts her about her husband's death and quick marriage. Tone: assertive, informal, and straightforward; sarcastic. Form: prose POV: first person, feminine. Emphasis on certain words and lack of attention to details contribute to a sarcastic and straightforward term. Negative connotations contribute to her almost offensive tone. Theme: Don't trust or assume anyone or anything. – Gertrude, Hamlet's biological mother, sets Hamlet straight and confesses that she was the one who murdered his father and her husband. Her sarcastic, offensive tone, multiple exaggerations, emphasis on different words and negative connotations contribute to the theme that the status quo must be maintained between parent and child. Her brusque and harsh words are aimed to keep Hamlet in line. In the original play (act 3, scene 2), Hamlet confronts Gertrude in the most insolent way and Gertrude is completely frazzled and quiet. This poem is a variation of that scene if Gertrude's response. The poem is re-imagining and changes the events. The status of women is altered because in the play, women are shown as dependent, fragile beings and in the poem, Gertrude is shown as an independent and strong woman – just like women of the 21st century. Also, the plot changes because Gertrude confesses to the murder even though, in the play, Claudius is in fact the real murderer. Also, the way Shakespeare wrote Hamlet versus the way Margaret Atwood wrote the poem is very different because their works were written in different eras.
The poem replaces a scene and modifies it a bit. The author does this because she might feel like Gertrude had no opportunity to speak and wanted her to speak up for herself. Also, she wanted to make Gertrude's character more prominent and significant. She wanted to shift the focus of father-son relationships to mother-son relationships.
f. In the original play, Gertrude's silence added a lot of ambiguity and confusion but the rendition of this scene clears up a lot of things and would've made the story much simpler and straightforward.
This poem definitely makes Gertrude not only a cold mother but a clever, conniving wife. Her criticism and confession shocks the audience because of the contrast in character in the original play. Hamlet sounds like a whiny, rebellious brat; he thinks of himself obligated to his father and a noble person but Gertrude reveals that he is just a regular teenage boy with daddy issues. King Claudius is portrayed an innocent, emotional and sweet man which contrasts his character in the original play because in the play, he is portrayed as a murderous and evil politician. In the play, Ophelia is portrayed as a heroine who is humble and obedient to her father while in the poem, she is portrayed as prissy, insecure, and immature. Hamlet's father is portrayed in the original play as a victim and a hero. In this poem, Hamlet's father is portrayed as a dog and a pretentious and dry character.
Why did she want to name him George? What is the significance of black socks? What is "the flesh" that Gertrude is referring to?
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