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How does Shakespeare present and use the characters of Laertes and Fortinbras to compare and contrast with Hamlet, in "Hamlet".

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How does Shakespeare present and use the characters of Laertes and Fortinbras to compare and contrast with Hamlet, in "Hamlet" The Shakespearean play "Hamlet" is dominated by the theme of revenge, the way in which the characters respond to grief and the demands of loyalty. Shakespeare presents us with the characters of Laertes and Fortinbras Prince of Norway, in order to compare their actions of vengeance with that of Hamlet's procrastination. The two characters are defined by how they reflect Hamlet's intricate disposition. The comparison of the three men highlights Hamlet's anguish in not taking revenge, which we sympathise with. Shakespeare shows the importance of Hamlets actions and inactions by putting Laertes and Fortinbras in parallel circumstances, the main similarity being revenge. As we observe each character strive for honour in the "rotten state of Denmark" we are presented with the very distinctive ways in which they conquer their hatred. Shakespeare shows all three men to have loved, respected and honoured their fathers. Each character displays deviousness when planning their act of retribution, but go about their battle for nobility in singular ways. Even though Hamlet has a very formal relationship with the Ghost of his father (Old Hamlet), it is shown that he has immense affection for him by his anger of inaction "the thoughts of love may sweep to my revenge". Contrasting with this, Laertes has an informal relationship with his father Polonius "But here my father comes. ...read more.


Fortinbras's calmness through the last scene complements his kingship qualities "I embrace my fortune", but the reader still questions what Hamlet would have been like as King of Denmark "Bear Hamlet like a soldier to the stage". Shakespeare shows that too little action can prove as dangerous, as too much. With Laertes as the extreme avenger, he results in his own treachery and loses respect from the audience. Where as Hamlet's honour for his father remains true throughout. Laertes stoops to a most dishonourable practice to vindicate his honour. Also, Fortinbras is willing to risk thousands of troops in an attack on a place of no worth, which shows that his rowdy expression of honour is no more than an attempt of prestige "we go to gain a little patch of ground that hath in it no profit but the name." Thus, even though we become increasingly frustrated with Hamlet's false words of action, he is more favourable with our sympathy. Both Laertes and Hamlet have love for Ophelia and show they are both jealous for her affection "I loved her more than 40,000 brothers". Parallel phrasing is used in Hamlets speech to Gertrude and Claudius, asking how he can prove his love for Ophelia, which emphasises his distress. Laertes lectures Ophelia on Hamlet's favour, which caused Hamlets act of madness, proving the brotherly and romantic love they had for her. After Ophelia's death he jumps in her grave, showing that he can be spontaneous. ...read more.


Laertes cannot control his actions, but is calmed down very quickly by Claudius, which leaves us questioning his motive for revenge. If Laertes felt very strongly about his father's death Claudius would not have been able to stop him, showing his honour to be weaker than Hamlet's. Fortinbras proves to be very calm and will assess the situations that come before him, and then act with great power and control "I have some rights of memory to this kingdom". However, Fortinbras's physical heroism cannot overrule his lack of morality. Professor Germaine Greer explains "Hamlet may torment himself with his inability to redeem his family honour by mass slaughter/ but the way he has chosen, though painful and dangerous, is the right way." I agree with this view, as our perception of Hamlet is that he is more honourable and morally righteous than Fortinbras, who would risk the lives of many for his prestige "to my shame I see the imminent death of twenty thousand men." As the three men interacted in the play, you can see how the differences between them would affect various aspects of the play, distinguishing them from all other characters. The qualities of each character prove to have many points that can be compared or contrasted with Hamlet. Each character has good qualities, which excel at certain points in the play, but Laertes has proved to be the true avenger. From this, Shakespeare invites the audience to explore whether vengeance is right or wrong in the captivating play "Hamlet". ...read more.

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