• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Hamlet, Laertes and Fortinbras are all reflections on each other. Discuss.

Extracts from this document...


Hamlet, Laertes and Fortinbras are reflections of each other. Discuss. "The world is a looking glass." This synecdochic statement of 19th century English novelist, William Makepeace Thackeray, encapsulates the idea of reflections of ourselves being evident all around us in different aspects of the world. Whether in the words, actions or attitudes of others, we tend to see something of ourselves. Shakespeare employs this theme of reflection in his works such as in Antony and Cleopatra where Caesar recognises that Antony is, as stated by Maecenas, "a spacious mirror set before him" and this reflects to Caesar both the dimensions of he and his fellow triumvir, leading Caesar to the realisation that the world is not big enough for the two of them as can be interpreted from "...we could not stall together/ In the whole world." Reflection is thus a recurrent motif in Shakespeare's works, and is a key issue which arises in the course of the play Hamlet. Hamlet is a play which involves a lot of reflection and mirroring in various ways. One of the most notable is the 'play within a play' or 'The Mousetrap' which mirrors the relationship King Hamlet had with Gertrude as well as the manner in which King Hamlet was murdered. ...read more.


Nevertheless, Hamlet does recognise an aspect of himself reflected in that of Laertes. Thus, Hamlet, Laertes and Fortinbras all seek to avenge the death of their fathers, but they each work towards this end with varying methods. Whilst Hamlet is the vacillating, hesitant one searching for proof and taking his time, and Fortinbras is the calculating but quick-acting, resolute one, Laertes is the more aggressive typical revenge hero. Hamlet spends so much time dithering and searching for proof that the ghost has to reappear to "whet thy almost blunted purpose." The use of words associated with knives or daggers, that is 'whet' and 'blunted', remind us that Hamlet's purpose is to kill to avenge his father, rather than his inactivity. Hamlet says of Fortinbras, on the other hand, that his "spirit is with divine ambition puffed" and thus he is able to lead the Norwegian army to fight over a 'little patch of ground'. Laertes' brutal, aggressive approach can be seen not only in the way he breaks into the Danish palace to confront Claudius over his father's death but also how he says of Hamlet that he would "cut his throat I'th'church" The aggressiveness in this statement is emphasised by the use of alliteration in 'throat' and 'th'church'. ...read more.


It is also interesting to note that Hamlet sees a reflection of his cause in that of Fortinbras and Laertes towards the end of the play in a form of anagnorisis. However, at the start of the play, he seems deeply sceptical about the ability of anything to reflect him truly. According to Philippa Kelly, he mocks verbal and physical display as having the incapacity to 'denote me truly'. In his mocking summation of Laertes even in the final act of the play, he appears sure that nothing and no one could reflect Laertes "he his semblable is his mirror, and who else would trace him, his umbrage, nothing more." His argument is that words fall short of describing Laertes' greatness, but earlier on we know that he has declared that he sees a reflection of his cause in that of Laertes. Thus, although Hamlet, ab initio, comes across as one who feels that nothing can reflect him, nothing can denote him truly or body him forth as would the dissection of his organs, he comes to realise that reflections are indeed everywhere as can be interpreted from William Thackeray's statement, "The world is a looking glass." In the actions, words, causes and attitudes of others, particularly Laertes and Fortinbras, he sees a reflection of his own self and is, from these reflections, made aware of his shortcomings and spurred to action in eventually avenging the death of his father. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Hamlet section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Here's what a teacher thought of this essay

3 star(s)

This is an uneven essay. The writer shows a good knowledge of the text and an effective attention to textual detail, with well used terminology. With better planning and structuring, it would have achieved a more focused response. ***

Marked by teacher Karen Reader 08/03/2012

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Hamlet essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    Why does Hamlet still matter?

    5 star(s)

    the idea of revenge being ?sweet?, as seen in television, and the media. However, Shakespeare has the modern audience question whether revenge is always sweet, or is it, in Hamlet?s case; a bittersweet affair obtained at a high price such as the death of his mother, Gertrude, himself, and close associates such as Laertes.

  2. Marked by a teacher

    Explore the presentation of revenge in 'Hamlet'.

    4 star(s)

    He cannot publicly confront Claudius without proof because he risks losing his claim to the thrown, alienating his friends and family and being exiled from Denmark, as it would be seen as an attempt by the prince to regain the throne, rather than a son avenging his fathers murder.

  1. Marked by a teacher

    Explore how Shakespeare examines the theme of revenge in Hamlet.

    3 star(s)

    Another aspect in revenge tragedy is the isolation of the protagonist from the other characters and his place in society as a prince, like hamlet himself, his abnormally strange actions and outburst of soliloquies often appears as if he is going through a period of insanity as viewed by the other characters and the audience.

  2. Appearance vs. Reality in Hamlet.

    The separation between Hamlet and the madness that at times overtakes him proves that the madness is merely appearance. Hamlet's madness is also an illusion to conceal his true feelings of Ophelia. Hamlet harasses Ophelia, a woman he loves, with harsh words and actions.

  1. How does Shakespeare present aspects of love in Hamlet?

    doesn't do anything but his only words to prevent her from drinking the poison are, 'Gertrude, do not drink'. From these words Shakespeare shows the true character of Claudius and that is that he did not love her enough to ruin her reputation to save her life.

  2. To be or not to be Hamlet soliloquy analysis

    Shakespeare's metaphorical use of the word "sea" of troubles shows the huge amount of trouble that Hamlet feels he has. He feels it would be impossible to take arms against such a huge amount and even if he did he would die any way.

  1. Critical review of 'Hamlet'

    It could be argued that revenge, for Hamlet, is not to expose Claudius as a murderer but fulfil his father's wishes. On the other hand, it may be a personal vendetta because of his marriage to his mother which is evident that Hamlet does not agree with and views as 'incestuous'.

  2. The Dramatic Function of Ophelia in Shakespeare's 'Hamlet'.

    An insane hero would not be a hero at all and his fate of little interest. Shakespeare presents 'pure' madness in Ophelia with her behaviour in act four, scene five. In her madness, her language lacks the 'form' that Hamlet's never ceases to exhibit.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work