Aunt-Mother, Hamlet’s Mother

This play is centered on Hamlet and his downward spiral of madness. Just about every character within the play is worried about him; but it seems like they would rather send him away to England than to find out what is causing his insanity. I agree that he is starting to go a little mad, but we must think about the circumstances in which he has just come to. First, his father has just died. The amount of sadness he must contain is unthinkable. Second, his mother has moved on and married Hamlet’s uncle; that is just wrong. And lastly, he has just encountered his father as a ghost and has learned that his uncle killed his father. All of these things put together could make anyone’s head go a little crazy.

Right from the very start of the play, Hamlet shows he disproves his mother’s new marriage. It bothers him immensely that his mother does not seem to be grieving over her husband’s death and marries someone new. It bothers him even more than her new husband is his uncle, his father’s brother. He states:

“…married with mine uncle,

My father’s brother, but no more like my father

Than to Hercules; within a month…

With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!” (1.2.151-57)

He does not understand why his mother is with Claudius because he is nothing like Hamlet’s father. He is hurt over his father’s death and his mother’s choice to remarry. Throughout the first three Acts, Hamlet references multiple times to his mother’s new marriage. More than once he calls his mother “good-mother”, which from the annotation we learn means step mother. I had some trouble understanding this line because she is still his mother, not his step mother. Does he now look at her as a step mother because she is married to his uncle? In a different scene he again references her as something she isn’t, “But my uncle-father and aunt-mother…” (2.2.359). I find it very odd that he refers to her as his aunt as well as his mother. I guess it makes sense since she married his uncle, but it is weird that he would even call her his aunt.

I think it is safe to say that Hamlet’s madness started from the grief of his father but grew after the marriage of his uncle and his mother. No one in the play realizes that this marriage is causing him pain which attributes to his ultimate downfall. Hamlet is an interesting, smart and witty character who uses his surroundings to accomplish what he wants. I am interested to finish this play and find out what happens to him in the end, as I have never read this play before.

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3 thoughts on “Aunt-Mother, Hamlet’s Mother

  1. Samantha Meyer

    I find your insight into the whole “good-mother” issue interesting, and it is very odd that he would choose to call her his step-mother when she really isn’t, even with the marriage to her brother-in-law. I personally believe that he is calling her his step-mother not because of the new relationship, but because she is farther out of reach from him. Typically, step-parents aren’t as close to you as your real parents. Therefore, by calling her a step-mother, Hamlet is isolating her from him and giving off the impression that he isn’t as close to her as he once was. She is foreign to him in many ways because he can’t understand her want to marry his uncle and not grieve his father’s death longer. I also think that it is important to look at the way that his mother reacts to the play and her new husband’s temper towards it. She seems to be more concerned for her new husband than she does for her own son now being sent away to England. That is typically a reaction that a step-mother would have towards their step-child, with the new husband coming first in their mind. This is a very interesting look into the relationship between Hamlet and his mother.

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  2. tarabutler93

    I agree that there are a number of events that could have contributed to Hamlet’s madness which his sudden shift in behavior is so believable. A lot of his anger is certainly directed at his mother, and he does seem to dwell more often than normal on her actions. Hamlet’s reference to his uncle and mother as his “father-uncle” and “aunt-mother” are very telling of Hamlet’s disapproval of their situation; he is mocking the bizarre nature of the situation. Additionally, I chuckled at these terms Hamlet employs because it reminded me of a joke from Arrested Development where one of the characters refers to a relative as his “father-uncle-dad”.

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