Hamlet’s Hereditary Queen

Introduction: Sticky bits, or Not Another Theory on Hamlet


This story began through an acting project I did in 2007, portraying Gertrude for some film students. This was very difficult – there were many confusing moments, which I have described as sticky bits.

Gertrude in Shakespeare’s sources turned out to be the daughter of the King of Denmark. Her status in Shakespeare’s play is not made clear. If she is the hereditary queen this can change the power dynamics of the play, and help with many of these sticky bits. However this interpretation of the play and the character appears to be almost unprecedented.

This project has been about finding and filling gaps: a feminist strategy, a description of the theatrical process and of academic research. The sticky bits can be clues to locating such a gap in a play.

The enormous and varied scholarship on Gertrude and Hamlet is about how scholars, commentators and the other characters perceive her, not about the character herself. Broader scholarship has helped flesh her out, especially feminist and historical scholarship, and performance practice. The result is the story of a powerful woman, an earth goddess with a commitment to her land.

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So much has been written about Hamlet that new works often begin with a short performance of hesitancy, apologising for adding to an already crowded field. This can even be expressed as an in-joke, like the following, which uses the To be or not to be speech: ‘Offer my own interpretive commentary on Hamlet? Adding to the thousands or tens of thousands already produced? The heart grows faint; the native hue of resolution is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought, almost.’1

This tradition of hesitancy goes back to at least 1839. German philosopher Herman Ulrici was self-deprecating about his own offer, but nevertheless saw new theories on Hamlet as a feature of ongoing human inventiveness.

Every fresh commentator who studies and writes about “Hamlet,” goes deeper and further than his predecessors, and thinks he has reached to the true foundation, which nevertheless, lies all the while still deeper and far beyond his researches. This, perhaps, will be the fate of my own speculations. However, I shall not be deterred by such a prospect, but comfort myself rather with the consoling certainty it affords of the surpassing fulness and the ever freshly-springing fertility of human genius.2

Not everyone has shared Ulrici’s enthusiasm. Nineteenth-century American scholar Horace Howard Furness begged: ‘Let me entreat, and beseech, and adjure, and implore you not to write an essay on Hamlet.’ It seems that no-one listened. By the 1990s, the average number of publications every year on Hamlet was well over 400.3

My own hesitancy occurred in the early stages, as I could not believe that the issue I discovered had not been fully dealt with by the massive amount of scholarship and production that had gone before. I could perhaps go the other way and make a sweeping claim like this one: ‘a 200-year-old critical tradition has been built on an oversight (and of the play’s premise, no less)’.4 I could perhaps prevaricate, and say that the book is about Gertrude rather than Hamlet, but that would be disingenuous, as it is of course not possible to consider the two characters separately. Hamlet is the eponymous character in Hamlet and Gertrude is Hamlet’s mother and Queen of Denmark. As such, she could be a minor character – token mother in Hamlet’s story. Most productions and much of the scholarship portray her as such. Hamlet, however, does not agree. His obsession with his mother, and with her second marriage, dominates the text. This book offers a new reading as to why this might be so. New readings are to be expected, not apologised for. Re-interpretation of Hamlet is perpetually ongoing because it is a play, freshly interpreted by every actor from his or her own point of view, in every performance.

My Gertrude project grew out of performing her story in a few scenes for some film students in Canberra in 2007. She proved to be a serious acting challenge. She has very few lines, so who she was and what she was feeling were difficult to grasp. To deal with that gap I used an acting strategy that could be called Reading Silence: I read the other characters’ lines and imagined how I would react to them. I also considered what I might have done to provoke what they said, although this last required more rehearsal work and negotiation with the other actors than I could get.

The biggest challenge by far was not, however, the lack of lines. It was rather that the character did not make sense. When I tried to produce the behaviour of the token mother expected by everyone involved (including myself), I came across many ‘sticky bits’. These are moments in the acting process where the flow stops – the character is no longer alive in the actor’s mind and body. The actor can feel as if suddenly abandoned by the character, left stranded on the stage or set, trying to remember lines as him- or herself, rather than being the character from whom the learnt lines somehow emerge naturally. A sticky bit may be resolved by changing the stage business, through a movement, a breath or a look, or through the timing of an entrance or an exit. It may require reconsidering an earlier part of the play. However, it may require a radical rethink of who and what the character is. Gertrude apparently had more complex motivations and objectives than those of a token mother. However, when I went through the text looking for these, they were obscure and contradictory. She does not get to tell her own story, and the stories that the male characters tell about her do not tally with her behaviour, or with her dialogue.

My first scene was also Gertrude’s first scene, the formal council meeting where Claudius presents himself to the court as king after his brother’s death.5 For me, as Gertrude, this was full of sticky bits. Who was I? Who was my father, and why had I originally married the recently dead king of Denmark? Why had I gone on to marry the new king, his younger brother Claudius? Why was Claudius on the throne at all? Hamlet was the dead king’s only son – why and how was he dispossessed? Why did I, as widowed Queen consort and Hamlet’s mother, endorse this? Why did what I did matter? Why did no-one mention this dispossession – not even the clearly unhappy Hamlet? His behaviour, although he seemed to need managing, was not that of the dispossessed only son of a king. I seemed to know that he would obey me, but I had no idea why – on top of everything else, he was 30 years old. Claudius and I managed these sticky bits by using the mystery and performing an atmosphere of conspiracy, but the mystery was never resolved.

More sticky bits surfaced in Gertrude’s main scene, the long ‘closet scene’ with Hamlet in the middle of the play, parts of which were filmed by two of my student directors.6 One director made the common assumption that there was a sexual element to the mother-son relationship. Gertrude and I both experienced the shocking impact of a young man – a friend and colleague who might indeed have been my son – running his finger down my shoulder blade with sexual intent. In the other director’s version of the scene, I could not drag my attention from a corpse on the floor – of an old man, a valued advisor. My own son had just killed him, in front of me. My son the killer seemed to feel no remorse for this; indeed, he had no interest in it, as instead, incomprehensibly, he was berating me for my marital choice and my sex life. I barely heard this Hamlet. In the productions I have seen, Gertrude usually manages to shift her attention from the corpse to the murderer, and further, grants him the moral authority to condemn her, listens to what he says, and repents. I could not do any of this. With both the sexual son and the murdering one, I could do little apart from experience shock. Any words I spoke were defensively formed, and they came from that state of shock. The directors incorporated this into their readings of the scene; one of them conveyed the disconnect between the two characters through a split screen.

These films provided opportunities as well as challenges. The student directors used unusual cuts for their scripts. I got to describe Hamlet in the duel scene with a line that I had never heard before despite seeing the play many times: He’s fat and scant of breath.7 That was fun, for Gertrude as well as for me. From that moment of fun, I laughed at Claudius’s jarring request not to drink from the cup, not taking it seriously. I was pleased that finally he and Hamlet seemed to be getting along, and that Hamlet was behaving himself – not just politely, but sanely, in that he had apologised to Laertes, following my earlier instruction to use some gentle entertainment to Laertes before you fall to play.8 From that moment of fun, the realisation that the drink was poisoned was yet another shock – I had been feeling that things were on the mend. The line made such a difference to the character that I wondered what other surprises might be in the full text.

After the project I continued to work on the character and on the play. They remained puzzles, but puzzles with potential. The most important thing I took away was that there was a mismatch between Gertrude’s story and Hamlet’s. Having geared myself up to deal with Hamlet’s reaction to being dispossessed of his rights of inheritance, I was thrown by his obsession with Gertrude’s sex life; and, in turn, that obsession with her sex life found no corresponding echo in the content of her own scenes.

Who is Gertrude that Hamlet should be so obsessed with her and her marriage, to the extent that it overwhelms his project of revenge on Claudius, his father’s murderer, violating the command of his father’s ghost? This is not clear in the text, and trying to clarify it often leads to broad speculation in the scholarship, which sometimes pathologises Hamlet’s own psychology, effectively exploring the theme of madness that already exists in the play, and sometimes adds non-textual readings, often pathological as well, to Gertrude, to Claudius, and also to the plot, mostly revolving around Gertrude’s potential sexuality. Sometimes commentators give up trying to make sense of it, and like the actor of Claudius and I did in our portrayal of our first scene, they decide that the mystery is the point. A theme rarely explored, however, and one that is important for the actor portraying her, is that of Gertrude’s own status. Most of my student directors neglected this, modernising the story and the setting – all except for one female director, who did her version of the duel scene, the last scene I was involved with, in full fairy tale costume. I finally got to wear a crown: this was the only scene where my character felt like a queen. What’s more, she felt like the mother of a prince. This sent my mind back to Gertrude’s first scene, when I was wondering why Claudius was on the throne at all, and how he had managed to dispossess Hamlet. I wondered again what my role and my status were in that scene, and why I mattered.

Eventually Yale professor Harold Bloom all-unwittingly provided the lightbulb moment. The clue was in a single sentence in his Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, where he was discussing the old Danish sources of the story that Shakespeare must have used: ‘The heroic Horwendil [old Hamlet], having slain the King of Norway in single combat, wins Gerutha, the daughter of the King of Denmark, who bears him Amleth.’9

Daughter of the King of Denmark?

Is Gertrude not a consort, but a Queen in her own right, a variation on Elizabeth I? By bloodline, in the absence of brothers, surely the King of Denmark’s daughter would have the right to the throne? Her husbands, old Hamlet, and then Claudius, would then be the consorts instead, kings only by right of being married to her; and further, young Hamlet would be heir to her throne, not his father’s throne.

My first thought was How might this play out on stage? My second was Surely I cannot be the first to think of this?

I began with the first, analysing the text in the light of the new interpretation. The power dynamics shifted; confusing moments became clear; new light was thrown on Hamlet’s own character and preoccupations; new dimensions surfaced in all the characters. The mismatch I had felt could now be dealt with without pathologising either Gertrude or Hamlet, and without adding moral transgressions that are not supported in the text. It began to feel as if everyone was in the same play.

I went on to retell Gertrude’s story as the hereditary queen in an adaptation I called ‘Gertrude’s Hamlet’, which I directed in 2011 at the Tuggeranong Arts Centre in Canberra. In 2016, I applied the interpretation to a moved reading of Shakespeare’s own play, with Sydney Shakespeare company, Bard on the Beach, and the cast of their recently produced Hamlet.10 The results of these exercises suggested that the initial answer to my first thought was ‘convincingly and engagingly’.

The second thought had still not been addressed. Harold Bloom did not seem to notice – he was interested only in Hamlet and his father, and did not pick up on the potential significance of Gertrude’s parentage at all. I thought that perhaps there might be clear reasons in the scholarship or the history which precluded the interpretation, so I went on reading. I eventually found that while there was nothing to rule it out, there was almost no mention of it. A few – very few – others have acknowledged that Gertrude could be the hereditary queen, but the notion generally occurs only to be immediately dismissed as unimportant and incidental, with almost no thought that it could make any difference to the play for either scholarship or for production. There seemed to be a major gap in the interpretation of Hamlet.

My main approach to this material has been finding and filling gaps: what has been described as ‘the crucial feminist strategy of training one’s eye on what is missing’.11 The method has obvious sexual imagery for the feminist scholar, with certain implications: the gap is and remains a gap. It does not become what fills it. What fills it does not define it, does not get to define it, and does not own it. What fills the gap is not always the same. These implications also apply to performance. The script is fragments, with gaps ‘designed to be filled by live actors’ and audiences’ lived experiences and imaginations’.12 The stage and auditorium or set are gaps, and can be filled with a variety of scenery, costumes, and props, and if film, camera angles and focus. The space and time around the words spoken are gaps. The subjectivity of characters and of their interactions are gaps. These gaps are all available for creative input by the theatre-makers, which will be different on each occasion. Gaps may not be filled at all. The gap itself may be the significant thing. One may fill it with mystery, or with silence or emptiness, leave it to stand, or emphasise it, like the student director who acknowledged the disjunct between Gertrude’s perspective and Hamlet’s by filming the two of us separately and using a split screen. Finding and filling gaps are also descriptive of the academic research process. Absences of a concept, a reason, an implication, or vocabulary to describe a situation all constitute such gaps and part of the researcher’s task is to explore them.

The gap I felt in the subjectivity of the character of Gertrude was what began this project – the sudden disappearance of the character’s subjectivity from within my own in the sticky bits. This was felt as subjective discomfort, which provoked the impulse to solve the problem. The methodology I developed in response is also a subjective one: it consists of looking for such discomfort; acknowledging its existence; reading it as potentially significant; and – once I had found the possibility of her status – applying that to the sticky moment to see if it could reduce the discomfort and fill the gap.13

The sticky bits thus provided a crucial factor in the crucial feminist strategy of training one’s eye on what is missing: how to locate the gap. In the gap indicated by my own discomfort, I located as yet unarticulated issues which came from my own subjective life experience; and the concept yet to be articulated was female power. The quotation from Harold Bloom articulated this gap, in two ways. First, the absence of Gertrude’s logical right to the throne as the daughter of the King of Denmark in his own description of her ancestry articulated the gap I had located through my own subjective discomfort. Second, it articulated the fact that there was a gap in respected scholarly analysis – that such experts might leave such gaps. Finding Gertrude’s royal status in the scholarship has been a challenge. Finding any trace of it in performance other than my own work is limited to a single production. Finding that status in Gertrude’s subjectivity seems to be limited to my own work.

My theatre pieces made use of other gap-related methodologies. Gertrude’s few lines relative to her importance to the eponymous character constitute a gap which I filled in my adaptation using a related feminist strategy – giving her an imagined voice. This was not an easy task. Neither the performance history, the scholarship, nor the text gave me access to anything I found satisfying as a personality for Gertrude. I eventually found it through a technique I use for both acting and writing: I experimented with a number of different voices, giving each of the Queen, Mother, and Woman, the opportunity to tell the story of the play from her own point of view. All three were retained in the adaptation, and the complexity revealed the potential for similar complexity for the character in Shakespeare’s own Hamlet.

The moved reading done with Bard on the Beach was straightforward theatre practice, filling the gaps offered by a script in the traditional way. The cast were given only the extra information that while Claudius was running the country, Gertrude had the gravitas; and second, this was highlighted by having her on stage throughout. Afterwards the cast was both enthusiastic and cautious; they had all felt a major, exciting shift in the dynamics for their own characters, but warned of the need to workshop any future production very carefully, as the standard assumptions about the play would be influential at an unconscious level.

When it came to the scholarship, the first gap was my initial lack of experience in the academic fields of both literary analysis and performance studies. This part of the project was somewhat unnerving to begin with, partly because I felt I was putting on the line academically the experience of having had the cheek to use my own difficulty in acting a part as a reason to effectively re-write Shakespeare’s most famous play. However, this foundational gap meant that my focus throughout has been on reading both the scholarship and the play from the point of view of mounting a production. Such production-based approaches have been used before by feminist scholars: by Penny Gay, especially in As She Likes It, her analysis of Shakespeare’s comedies; by Carol Rutter, first in Clamorous Voices and then in Enter the Body; by Anna Kamaralli in Shakespeare and the Shrew, her analysis of Shakespeare’s exploration of female speech and power, and by Lori Leigh in Shakespeare and the Embodied Heroine.14 Carol Rutter’s earlier book gives the actresses she interviews a direct voice, but her own voice in both her books is from the position of audience, as are those of Gay and Kamaralli. From the audience, the scholar constructs the play they see from a point of view quite different from that of the creatives who actively participate in the various choices made to create meaning in the play. However, all of these scholars have been informed by experience with theatre practice. Gay and Rutter have both used the rehearsal process to teach Shakespeare, and Kamaralli is an active theatre-maker and director.15

Lori Leigh’s work goes further, in that she uses a ‘directorial eye’ in practical terms: she personally directed the productions that feature in her book. Leigh’s approach also includes considerable use of the above-mentioned ‘crucial feminist strategy of training one’s eye on what is missing’: she finds her gaps through a perspective provided by adaptation. The productions she directed were early modern plays by Shakespeare and Fletcher, and seventeenth- or eighteenth-century adaptations of those plays. The adaptors changed the original, leaving things out or adding things, and thus created absences. Either something is absent in the adaptation that was present in the original, or, if something has been added, it is present in the adaptation, but absent in the original. The differences highlight what is missing, and Leigh pays both the original and the adaptation close attention to see how what is absent might be significant.

Leigh’s practitioner’s approach is thus more personally engaged, and my own is even more so. While the larger points of view of the ‘directorial eye’ and the playwright/adaptor emerged as my project evolved, my perspective began as that of the actor – an actor who already had a narrower, more personal engagement with the character herself than a director would. Having the foundation of an established perspective on the character’s subjectivity provided me with an intimate subjective lens through which I could assess the portrayals and analyses specifically of that character in both the performance history and the scholarship. As a writer and director, I brought a creative’s understanding of the character’s potential complexity and of the production side of things.

This production-based approach meant that I could make use of my theatre-maker’s instinct and intuition when appraising both the play-text and the scholarship. This incorporated my personal intuition, including my own perspective as an older woman relating to Gertrude’s situation, which I would normally use for creating a character. Such intuition is not always accessible through language, and at times it has been hard work articulating my response, but the payoff has been that as well as those intuitions appraising the scholarship, the scholarship in its turn has helped to articulate, inform, and appraise those intuitive responses. Responses such as ‘yes, but …’, ‘this does not make sense’, ‘how could you convey that on stage?’, ‘is this in the text?’, and ‘this could be played differently’, as well as confusion, shock, and inarticulate resentment have all played their parts in helping to clarify and articulate a new story for Gertrude and Hamlet.

For the actor (or director, or designer, for that matter) looking to portray Gertrude, the scholarship is somewhat overwhelming, given the sheer bulk of material to contend with, very little of which is written in such a way as to help the practitioner. I focused first on works discussing Gertrude herself, such as the sources of the play, and the Freudian and post-Freudian work. Gertrude is one of the two original Oedipal mothers: Freud’s development of the theory of the Oedipus complex depended as much on Hamlet as on Oedipus Rex.16 I have chosen quite deliberately to include popular works and older works as much as more recent ones, as the history of commentary on Hamlet informs the assumptions and decisions of production. Recent scholars may explore new ways to approach the material, but, in a sense, the older texts are the material – they are part of the performance history, performed as scholarship. I treat and describe the stage and film performance history of Hamlet as ‘commentary’ together with the literary criticism, through the 23 productions of the play that I have seen myself and through the description and analysis of other productions as found in the works listed in the references.

What eventually emerged was not so much help for a production, but something quite different. The scholarship and the production history both seem to play quite an explicit role in the story of Gertrude: one of the passive suppression of female political or regal status – the creation of a gap where this should be. Her lack of such status is generally assumed rather than argued against. Earlier scholars focused not on her power, but on simple Christian morality, to make the main point one of whether Gertrude has been a good girl. With the twentieth-century shift of focus from Christianity, discussion became primarily about Hamlet’s obsessive response to her, which could no longer be easily read as straightforward Christian moralising. The focus on Hamlet meant that it gave little insight into Gertrude herself. Neither approach helps much with an understanding of the character for acting purposes. As regards her status, important for acting a character, there is occasionally a suggestion that she might be marrying Claudius to regain status lost through being a widowed consort, but there is almost nothing on any status she might have herself. The new historicist field of literary criticism that emerged in the 1980s addresses the early modern era’s issues with powerful women, but primarily from the point of view of the men who resisted it, not from the point of view of the woman with power, and its emphasis is largely sexual.17 Eventually the scholarship on Hamlet proved more useful in showing how Gertrude is perceived by the commentators than in helping to understand the character herself.

Broader scholarship was more useful than material specifically on Hamlet and on Gertrude herself. Historical work on queens, feminist scholarship on the early modern era, and feminist theory, especially feminist performance theory, all provided background support for an interpretation I increasingly realised was startlingly original. Ironically, reading this material felt on occasion similar to reading the early scholars, in that according to different criteria, I again found myself asking if Gertrude has been a good girl, and for that matter, whether I have been a good girl myself. Have Gertrude and I between us, as feminists, demonstrated agency and experienced ourselves as desiring subjects rather than desired objects? Have we adequately exposed the misogynist tropes of the play and of the patriarchy? In the end, I think we have. With Shakespeare’s help, we have told a powerful story of a powerful woman.

In addition to Gertrude’s potential royal blood, there is a major gap in the scholarship regarding her subjectivity, interiority, or agency. Convincing subjectivity is essential for a character to be engaging on stage, as the audience is there primarily to have a subjective experience. This aspect of Gertrude has begun to receive a little attention since the beginning of the twenty-first century. Some see her agency operating as regards conflicted loyalties as mother/wife, some see it in the service of wanting to either mother or kill Ophelia, some see it as solely in service of a sexual agenda. More complex views than these exist, but are very rare. If Gertrude is read as the hereditary queen, there is an entirely new way to read this side of the character. Her personal investment in her land, her role as earth goddess, her value for Hamlet as her heir, not just as her son, and her value for her husbands as ruling consorts all add a completely new world.

New readings of Shakespeare follow his own example. Shakespeare challenges the preconceptions of his age, and, surprisingly often, of ours as well. Actor Juliet Stevenson has observed what happens when this is forgotten.

I don’t think Shakespeare’s plays ever attempt to answer questions. They ask questions and they leave those question marks hanging over the heads of the actors and the audience at the end of the play … What directors often like to do is … answer … them – usually by celebrating the very status quo which the play has set out to challenge.18

This book sets out to challenge the status quo regarding Gertrude’s status by addressing the following five questions:

  1. Could Gertrude be the blood royal Queen of Denmark in Shakespeare’s play?
  2. How is she usually read?
  3. How did I come to read her differently?
  4. In what social and literary context was she written? Does anything in that preclude such a reading?
  5. How could we portray Gertrude as the blood royal queen of Denmark in a modern production of Hamlet?

Part I addresses the second and third of these questions and contains a good deal of discussion of the scholarship. The general reader might find Part II, which addresses the fourth question, more accessible. Part III addresses the final question. It contains an analysis of status in theatre in general and in Hamlet in particular, and proposes new readings of certain scenes with Gertrude using status and power more strongly than we usually see her do.

There is plenty of material in both the text and the scholarship to support a production choosing to portray Gertrude as the hereditary Queen of Denmark, and nothing to preclude such a choice. There are also many different possibilities for portraying a blood royal Gertrude. My issue is not that Gertrude has been played as sexual, stupid, drunk, irrelevant, and a consort; many productions portray these choices very well indeed, and most of them could work very well for a blood royal queen as well. My issue is rather that she is never played as the hereditary queen.

Notes on the text

Some of the vocabulary I use comes from theatre practice. I use ‘cut’ rather than ‘selection’ for the choice of text, and I often use ‘find’ rather than ‘create’ for the character. In the academic world these terms can be problematic.

In text-based theatre, actors normally see themselves as interpreting a playwright’s intentions; however, with Hamlet these are by no means straightforward, for two reasons. First, there are several printed versions of the play with markedly different texts; and, second, it is by no means clear how much, if any, control Shakespeare himself had over these versions. There is thus no definitive ‘true’ Hamlet, Hamlet, or Gertrude according to an authorial text. The reading I propose is not ‘true’, but it is available, reasonable, and viable, given the texts we have.

The play was probably written in the late 1590s–early 1600s. There are three main early printed versions, known as the First Quarto, the Second Quarto, and the Folio; or Q1, Q2, and F.19 Practitioners usually select from Q2 and F, as they are longer, and more subtle and complex regarding character, plot, and language. Productions may actually use less than half of the text available in these two versions, as the total takes around four hours to perform. However, practitioners do not talk of ‘selection’, but rather of which ‘cuts’ they have made to the full available text. ‘Cut’ also refers to the complete director’s script after cuts and selections are made, similar to the film industry’s use of ‘final cut’ for post-editing versions of a film.20

‘Find’ is a word often used by creatives, not just by actors for their characters. Writers use the term for their characters, and also for the narrative choices and solutions they make. Painters use it for what surfaces in their mind to put on canvas. The academic caveat when it comes to the actor’s use of it is that this can sound like the character has an independent existence, a separate personhood, whereas it is actually a creation of the actor. This is true, with reservations. The actor ‘creates’ in context: that of the text, his or her own skill and biography, and the world of the production in which they are working. But much of this act of creation is intuitive. The word ‘create’ does not satisfy, as it has implications of conscious, intellectual control. ‘Find’ better acknowledges both the context and the intuitive side of the activity.

Professionally the term ‘actor’ is used whatever the gender of the performer. I use ‘actress’ when I feel that the gender of the performer is significant.


  1. Joseph Carroll, ‘Intentional Meaning in Hamlet: An Evolutionary Perspective’. Style 44.1–2 (2010) 3; Hamlet 3.1.83–84: And thus the native hue of resolution / Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought. All quotations from Hamlet come from Ann Thompson and Neil Taylor (eds) Hamlet (London: Arden Shakespeare, 2006); quotations from other Shakespeare plays are taken from Open Source Shakespeare: https://www.opensource shakespeare.org.
  2. Hermann Ulrici, Shakespeare’s Dramatic Art: And His Relation to Calderon and Goethe. Translated by A. J. W. Morrison (London: Chapman Brothers, 1846) 213.
  3. Thompson and Taylor (2006: 1–2), referring to a 1908 lecture by Furness (James M. Gibson, The Philadelphia Shakespeare Story: Horace Howard Furness and the Variorum Shakespeare (New York: AMS Press, 1990) 220). They refer to the Shakespeare Quarterly Annual Bibliography for the statistics. Furness edited Hamlet in 1877.
  4. Margreta de Grazia, Hamlet Without Hamlet (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007) 5.
  5. 1.2.
  6. 3.4. ‘Closet’ here means private, lockable room, but it is often portrayed as a bedroom.
  7. 5.2.269.
  8. 5.2.184–185.
  9. Harold Bloom, Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human (New York: Penguin Putnam, 1998) 398–399 For the sources, see Israel Gollancz (ed.) The Sources of Hamlet: With an Essay on the Legend (London: Oxford University Press, 1926).
  10. For a description and reviews of ‘Gertrude’s Hamlet’, see Trevar Chilver, ‘On Being Horatio’. Australian Stage, 18 August 2011. Available at: https://www.australianstage. com.au/201108184665/features/canberra/on-being-horatio.html Peter Wilkins, ‘Wife, Mother, Queen’. The Canberra Times, 26 August 2011: 8, and Tegan Osborne, ‘Hamlet Through Female Eyes’. Canberra Weekly, 1 September 2011: 18. For Bard on the Beach, see https://www.bardonthebeach.net/. Patricia Rowling portrayed the blood royal Gertrude.
  11. Valerie Traub, ‘Afterword: Early Modern (Feminist) Methods’. Rethinking Feminism in Early Modern Studies: Gender, Race, and Sexuality, edited by Ania Loomba and Melissa Sanchez (London: Routledge, 2016): 232.
  12. Lori Leigh, Shakespeare and the Embodied Heroine: Staging Female Characters in the Late Plays and Early Adaptations (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2014) 150–151
  13. For methodologies as emerging in response to practical problems, see Pierre Bourdieu and Loïc J. D. Wacquant, ‘The Purpose of Reflexive Sociology (the Chicago Workshop)’. An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology, edited by Pierre Bourdieu and Loïc J. D. Wacquant (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992) 160–161
  14. Penny Gay, As She Likes It: Shakespeare’s Unruly Women (New York: Routledge, 1994); see also Penny Gay, ‘Changing Shakespeare: New Possibilities for the Actress’. The Cambridge Companion to the Actress, edited by Maggie B. Gale and John Stokes (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007): 314–326; Carol Chillington Rutter, Clamorous Voices: Shakespeare’s Women Today (London: Women’s Press Ltd, 1988); Carol Chillington Rutter, Enter the Body: Women and Representation on Shakespeare’s Stage (London: Routledge, 2002); Anna Kamaralli, Shakespeare and the Shrew: Performing the Defiant Female Voice (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012); Leigh (2014).
  15. Kamaralli (2012: 25); see https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/english/people/rutterprofcarol/; https://nd-au.academia.edu/AnnaKamaralli/CurriculumVitae; Penny Gay, ‘A Shakespeare Brief Immersion Method for Undergraduates’. Teaching Shakespeare Beyond the Centre, edited by Kate Flaherty, L. E. Semler, et al. (New York: Springer, 2013): 153–167; for Kamaralli, see https://orlandocreature.wordpress.com/about/.
  16. See Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams. Translated by A. A. Brill (Newburyport, MA: Dover Publications, 2015 [1899]) 191–194; Ernest Jones, Hamlet and Oedipus (London: Victor Gollancz, 1949); Harold Bloom, The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages (New York: Riverhead Books, 1994) 371–394.
  17. This field relates literature to its historical context and vice versa. Early scholars in the field were Stephen Greenblatt and Louis Montrose. See also Lisa Jardine, Reading Shakespeare Historically (London: Routledge, 1996) 37. The work I have found most useful is Katherine Eggert, Showing Like a Queen: Female Authority and Literary Experiment in Spenser, Shakespeare and Milton (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000).
  18. Rutter (1988: 120).
  19. See Thompson and Taylor (2006) and Ann Thompson and Neil Taylor (eds) Hamlet: The Texts of 1603 and 1623 (London: Arden Shakespeare, 2007).
  20. See Steven Berkoff, I Am Hamlet (London: Faber and Faber, 1989) 5; Mark Kilmurry, The Hamlet Diary: Shakespeare’s Play from Conception to Opening Night (Strawberry Hills, NSW: Currency Press, 2006) ix; Jonathan Croall, Hamlet Observed: The National Theatre at Work (London: NT Publications, 2001) 10. For an example of ‘cut’ being used to describe the director’s full script used, see Gregory Doran’s use of the term in Jonathan Croall, Performing Hamlet: Actors in the Modern Age (London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2018) 99.


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Thompson, Ann, and Neil Taylor (eds) (2007). Hamlet: The Texts of 1603 and 1623. London: Arden Shakespeare.

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