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Authors: John Updike

Gertrude and Claudius

BOOK: Gertrude and Claudius
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Absorbing in its own right as the story of an adulterous affair in a world where illicit love is far more perilous than it is in ours.”

New York Daily News

“The story about everything that happened before the story of
.… Updike and Shakespeare: ’Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.”

The Christian Science Monitor

“Daring and playful … Thrillingly heretical … In writing about Gertrude and Claudius, Mr. Updike is really rewriting Eve and the serpent, rewriting the origins of original sin in the lustful longing for originality. In other words, like the best Updike novels, it’s a fusion of sex and theology, it’s about the mystery of women, the mystery of Eve’s temptation.”

New York Observer

“[Updike] writes like an angel.… In the tradition of Tom Stoppard’s play
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead
, Updike salutes Shakespeare with one hand—treating his fictive world as a real, solid launch pad for his own story. With the other hand he rips open that classic with new perspectives on its events.… Very clever and elegantly crafted.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Skillful, ambitious, and confident … Updike takes a handful of attractive, well-meaning characters and leads them by gentle steps to the opening act of the world’s most famous revenge tragedy.… A poet as well as a novelist, he supplies his characters with a richly Shakespearean language.”

New York Newsday


Precisely honed, buoyant with sly wit, masterful character analysis, and astutely observed historical details … The resolution is breathtaking.”

Publishers Weekly
(starred review)

“Updike is descriptively lush as ever … and as slyly comic … [He] has done a Shakespeare; taken an old story, revised it, and by revising, illuminated.”

Miami Herald

“Compelling … A beautifully crafted, captivating story … His best book since
The Witches of Eastwick.

Christian Century

“[Updike] is the perfect writer to riff on Shakespeare’s tragedy, which he manages to do here without usurping the great play’s rightful primacy.”

By John Updike


The Carpentered Hen
(1958) •
Telephone Poles
(1963) •
(1969) •
Tossing and Turning
(1977) •
Facing Nature
(1985) •
Collected Poems 1953–1993
(1993) •


The Poorhouse Fair
(1959) •
Rabbit, Run
(1960) •
The Centaur
(1963) •
Of the Farm
(1965) •
(1968) •
Rabbit Redux
(1971) •
A Month of Sundays
(1975) •
Marry Me
(1976) •
The Coup
(1978) •
Rabbit Is Rich
(1981) •
The Witches of Eastwick
(1984) •
Roger’s Version
(1986) •
(1988) •
Rabbit at Rest
(1990) •
Memories of the Ford Administration
(1992) •
(1994) •
In the Beauty of the Lilies
(1996) •
Toward the End of Time
(1997) •
Gertrude and Claudius
(2000) •
Seek My Face
(2002) •
(2005) •


The Same Door
(1959) •
Pigeon Feathers
(1962) •
Olinger Stories
a selection
, 1964) •
The Music School
(1966) •
Bech: A Book
(1970) •
Museums and Women
(1972) •
Problems and Other Stories
(1979) •
Too Far to Go
a selection
, 1979) •
Bech Is Back
(1982) •
Trust Me
(1987) •
The Afterlife
(1994) •
Bech at Bay
(1998) •
Licks of Love
(2000) •
The Complete Henry Bech
(2001) •
The Early Stories: 1953–1975


Assorted Prose
(1965) •
Picked-Up Pieces
(1975) •
Hugging the Shore
(1983) •
Just Looking
(1989) •
Odd Jobs
(1991) •
Golf Dreams: Writings on Golf
(1996) •
More Matter
(1999) •
Due Considerations


Buchanan Dying


Self Consciousness


The Magic Flute
(1962) •
The Ring
(1964) •
A Child’s Calendar
(1965) •
Bottom’s Dream
(1969) •
A Helpful Alphabet of Friendly Objects

A Ballantine Book Published by The Random House Publishing Group
Copyright © 2000 by John Updike

All rights reserved.

Published in the United States by Ballantine Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, and simultaneously in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto.

Ballantine and colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.

Phrases of Provençal poetry are taken from
Lyrics of the Troubadours and Trouvères: An Anthology and a History
, edited by Frederick Goldin (New York: Doubleday and Co., 1973; reprinted Gloucester, Mass.: Peter Smith).

A Library of Congress Catalog Card Number can be obtained from the publisher upon request.

eISBN: 978-0-375-41163-2

This edition published by arrangement with Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.


To Martha

De dezir mos cors no fina
vas selha ren qu’ieu pus am


in Part I are taken from the account of the ancient Hamlet legend in the
Historia Danica
of Saxo Grammaticus, a late-twelfth-century Latin text first printed in Paris in 1514. The spellings in Part II come from the fifth volume of François de Belleforest’s
Histoires tragiques
, a free adaptation of Saxo printed in Paris in 1576 (Sir Israel Gollancz’s
Sources of Hamlet
[1926] reprints the 1582 edition) and translated into English in 1608, probably as a result of Shakespeare’s play’s popularity. The name Corambis occurs in the First Quarto version (1603) and recurs as Corambus in the German
Der bestrafte Brudermord oder Prinz Hamlet aus Daennemark
(first printed in 1781 from a lost manuscript dated 1710), a much-shortened debasement of Shakespeare’s play or of the lost so-called
from the 1580s, plausibly conjectured to be by Thomas Kyd and to have been acquired for reworking by the Chamberlain’s Men, the theatrical company to which Shakespeare—whose names are used in Part III—belonged.


was irate. His daughter, Gerutha, though but a plump sixteen, had voiced reluctance to marry the nobleman of his choice, Horwendil the Jute, a beefy warrior in every way suitable, if Jutes could ever suit in marriage a Zealand maiden born and reared in the royal castle of Elsinore. “To disobey the King is treason,” Rorik admonished his child, the roses in whose thin-skinned cheeks flared with defiance and distress. “When the culprit is the realm’s only princess,” he went on, “the crime becomes incestuous and self-injuring.”

“In every way suitable to
,” Gerutha said, pursuing her own instincts, shadows chased into the far corners of her mind by the regal glare her father cast. “But I found him unsubtle.”

“Unsubtle! He has all the warrior wit a loyal Dane
needs! Horwendil slew the tormentor of our coasts, King Koll of Norway, by taking his long sword in two hands, thus baring his own chest; but, before he could be stabbed there, he shattered Koll’s shield and cut off the Norseman’s foot so the blood poured clean out of him! As he lay turning the sands beneath him into mud, Koll bargained the terms of his funeral, which his young slayer granted graciously.”

“I suppose that could pass for nicety,” said Gerutha, “in the dark old days, when the deeds of the sagas were being wrought, and men and gods and natural forces were all as one.”

BOOK: Gertrude and Claudius
7.43Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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