There’s a line in Hamlet during the bedroom confrontation that I go right to whenever Hamlet comes up. Something in it just hooked me once upon a time and it’s been a personal favorite ever since. It’s when Hamlet says to Gertrude, “You have my father much offended.”
In my head, that line summarizes the entire play. A major part of Hamlet’s anquish lies in his feelings toward his mother. He wants to confront her, but hasn’t (yet). He wants to tell her the truth about what he knows, but he can’t. And yet here he does both. I don’t see it as a throwaway line in their little banter (“Come come, you answer with an idle tongue….go,go, you question with a wicked one…”) It’s more cathartic than that. I can just picture him screaming it at her – “YOU have MY FATHER much offended!” Is he talking about her o’erhasty marriage, or the fact that she married the murderer? Both, probably. There’s agony in the poor kid at this point, absolute torment. His mother is sharing a bed with the guy that killed his father. He’s trying desperately to ask her “What the $%^&* are you doing?? Don’t you see how sick this all is?”
My question is, am I completely off in hanging so much on that one line? When it’s performed, is it usually done as a throwaway just so they can get through the banter? I suppose “You are the queen, your husband’s brother’s wife, and would it were not so you are my mother” is the “better” line in the sense that it climaxes the little back and forth and begins to make things happen. But I like the line I cited. It just captures the essence better to me, because only three characters are mentioned in it — Hamlet and his mom and dad. It brings the play completely back to them makes the play accessible to any parent or child. The “You are the queen…” line makes the situation too complicated.
Lord, I’m talking too much. ok, I’ll stop.