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

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Introduction

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.

Middle

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.

Conclusion

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.

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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

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