Gertrude is the widow of Old Hamlet and the present wife of Claudius, Hamlet’s mother, and the Queen.
She is not a native Dane. She married her brother-in-law quickly after her husband’s death, but has mostly repressed whatever feelings of guilt she has for doing so. She loves her son deeply, insisting on keeping him by her, though she is not as well-aware of his friendships as she thinks. Like Hamlet, she finds Polonius’s orotund speeches tedious. She is convinced that Hamlet is mad, and hopes to cure him, but can find no way to do so. Despite what Hamlet considers her great age (she is at least 44), she still enjoys the physical pleasures of marriage. She is brave, willing to physically restrain Laertes from attacking Claudius, but cannot fight back against Hamlet’s verbal assaults. She does not at first know Ophelia, and is frightened of her madness, but is devastated by her death, since she had hoped the girl might marry Hamlet once she heard of her son’s love for her. She does not think much of her subjects, and worries that Ophelia’s madness may make them suspicious. She recognizes that she has been poisoned by her last drink.