Recapturing Gertrude: The Characterisation of Hamlet’s Mother In Updike’s Gertrude and Claudius

  • Dale Hay

    Student thesis: Master's Thesis


    The aim of the thesis is to examine John Updike’s characterisation of Gertrude in his Hamlet-inspired novel Gertrude and Claudius. Chapter 1 presents an overview of EM Forster’s and James Wood’s contrasting conceptualisations of different types of characters in novels, with particular emphasis on the ‘flatness’ or ‘opacity’ of characters. Critical appraisals of the characterisation of Gertrude in Shakespeare’s play are then reviewed. Chapter 2 provides an analysis of Updike’s characterisation of Gertrude in his novel, with reference to four dimensions of her character: agency, sexuality, motherhood and conscience. To conclude, Chapter 3 presents my reflections on my creative project, a novel that sets a modern retelling of Hamlet in a tradition-bound Cambridge college, in relation to the stubborn opacity of Gertrude’s character for authors who attempt to tell her story.
    Date of Award19 May 2019
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorKevin Mills (Supervisor) & Barrie Llewelyn (Supervisor)

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