While reading the final act of Hamlet, it was brought to my attention in the final scene just how helpless Gertrude really is in her situation. In the previous acts, she has come across as a woman who is trapped in-between the memory of her late husband driving her son insane and her new husband’s strong control over her emotions. As if her situation couldn’t get any worse, she dies because of her husband’s negligence to move the poisoned cup out of her reach. Throughout all of her helplessness in the final act, however, I was amazed at just how much she cared for Hamlet and warranted his safety as her number one priority. When Hamlet jumps into the grave after Ophelia and is fighting with Laertes, his mother’s main concern is his safety. This is shown in how she calls after him “Hamlet! Hamlet!” (5.1.248) and yells at Laertes “For the love of God, forbear him.” (5.1.258). She cares more about Hamlet’s well-being in this fight than she does for Laertes. This is a dangerous choice since she knows that her husband favors Laertes more than Hamlet and probably wouldn’t like her rooting for her son very much. This is the first instance I saw in the play where she called out to Hamlet and cared for him in the presence of her husband where she wasn’t calling him mad or reprimanding him for something he was doing.
She also calls out to Hamlet when she has drank from the poisoned cup and is dying. Her final words of the entire play are “No, no, the drink, the drink! O my dear Hamlet, / The drink, the drink—I am poisoned!” (5.2.253-254). She gives no mention or call out for her husband, and in fact her last exchange with her husband is her telling him that she will drink if she wants to (finally standing up for herself). She also spends the short time before her death caring for Hamlet by wiping his face with a cloth and making sure he is okay while fighting. I think that these moments where Gertrude is showing her true love for Hamlet over her husband are important in understanding just how much Hamlet might have gotten through to her in his pleading for her to be wary of his uncle. She might be helpless and seemingly fall into many of the situations she is put in, but she does have a mind of her own towards the end of the play and uses that mind to care for Hamlet, her only son.