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

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

Extracts from this document...


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.

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

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

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

    3 star(s)

    But even more notable in the play with regards reflection, is the manner in which the characters of Hamlet, Laertes and Fortinbras reflect on each other. These three characters are all young men who, at some point, have lost or will lose a father.

  2. Compare and Contrast theCharacters Hamlet and Laertes.

    Hamlet, before leaving gives his mother some advise, to not sleep with his uncle and not let on that she knows that Hamlet is acting: "But go not to my uncle's bed..." Laertes doesn't show great feelings during the play towards his father, however we know he does love his father, as he so badly wanted to avenge him.

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

    a way that allows us to see her to have many traits which are of resemblance of the Queen. Therefore, this can be interpreted that Hamlet's love for Ophelia are only reflections of his true love for his mother the Queen.

  2. Scene by Scene - Hamlet.

    They used to have their own theater, but some child-actors became more popular (a contemporary allusion by Shakespeare to the late summer of 1600), and the adult actors took to the road. Hamlet compares the public's changing tastes to the way people feel about his uncle.

  1. Comparing the revengers Fortinbras, Laertes and Hamlet.

    Hamlets' revenge plan is hidden from the rest of the court. It is very much behind closed doors and it is only Horatio to whom Hamlet tells the whole story. The other two main revengers - Fortinbras and Laertes are a great contrast to Hamlet in this way.

  2. A consideration of the extent to which, in Hamlet's soliloquies, Hamlet is presented by ...

    He is unsure whether to be a coward and not take his revenge, but rather follow a religious code of honour. Hamlet has a low opinion of himself at this point, calling himself, "a dull and muddy-mettled rascal." By the end of the soliloquy, however, Hamlet has built up an

  1. How does Shakespeare use language to describe Claudius as a villain?

    He knows the value of a great funeral, but quickly turns mourning into celebration and moves on "With mirth in funeral and with dirge in marriage" to whatever lies ahead. He is a decisive man, fair in his politics and commanding- if Gertrude's allegiance in any indication-in his bedroom.

  2. Criticism on Hamlet

    The effect of this overbalance of the imaginative power is beautifully illustrated in the everlasting broodings and superfluous activities of Hamlet's mind, which, unseated from its healthy relation, is constantly occupied with the world within, and abstracted from the world without, - giving substance to shadows, and throwing a mist over all common-place actualities.

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