Familial Relationsgreenspun.com : LUSENET : Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet : One Thread
How is it that Claudias is Hamlet's cousin and uncle? Also, how is Claudias's marriage to Gertrude incestuous?
-- Kelly J. Munroe (firstname.lastname@example.org), November 19, 2001
Cousin was not used as specifically then as it is now. It was often used to signify familial relations by marriage. Claudius is Hamlet's "cousin" because he marries Hamlet's mom. He is Hamlet's uncle literally because he's Hamlet's dad's brother.
The marriage was considered incestuous at the time because when Gertrude married Old Hamlet, Claudius became her "brother" (these days we say brother-in-law, but then there was little distinction). Now that Old Hamlet is dead, she is married to Claudius, her "brother". Remember when he calls her "our sometimes sister, now our queen"? There he refers to the fact that they were once "brother and sister".
Hope that helps.
-- mikken (email@example.com), November 24, 2001.