Incestuous Implications: Gertrude and Claudius
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This chapter provides a close reading of incest in John Updike’s prequel to Hamlet, Gertrude and Claudius, specifically exploring the way incest complicates the relationship between the spatiotemporality of the self and an already related other. Examining the effects of the incestuous affair between Gertrude and her husband’s brother, Davies, also conceptualises the pleasure of ‘adulterous parallelism’, that is, the sexual excitement of being in two times and spaces—inside and outside marriage—simultaneously. This affair also creates an intense form of sexual abandonment, Davies argues, as the couple figuratively except themselves from the king’s legal sphere and delight in their sexual animalisation; they create a tension between sexual and political abandonment. In the final section of the chapter, Davies turns to more formal matters, proposing a theory of the ‘incestuous prequel’.