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How does Shakespeare use Laertes as a parallel to Hamlet in the play?

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Introduction

How does Shakespeare use Laertes as a parallel to Hamlet in the play? Hamlet is a story of revenge and of the way the characters in the play respond to their grief and the demands of loyalty from the deceased. Laertes is presented as a parallel character to Hamlet and provides a pivotal point on which to compare the actions and emotions of Hamlet throughout the play. Hamlet and Laertes are two young men faced with avenging their fathers' deaths. However, the way that they both react to their grief and how they rise to the call of vengeance is the main contrast between them. While Hamlet is a man of thought; Laertes is a man of action. Hamlet is introduced as a mourning son, greatly troubled by the recent marriage of his mother to his uncle. The audience immediately establishes a connection with this character as he seems very unsure and vulnerable when confronting the ghost. Laertes, on the other hand is presented to the audience as a somewhat hollow and shallow character who gives his sister unfounded advice as to Hamlet's feelings towards her. ...read more.

Middle

When brought to the call of avenging their fathers' deaths, Laertes is fast to act, he wants revenge and he wants it immediately. His actions are rash, being based in anger, and Laertes is easily drawn into Denmark's corruption by Claudius. Claudius manipulates Laertes into becoming an ally to kill Hamlet. Laertes is confident of his abilities to regain honour through vengeance: "my revenge will come" the absolute certainty of the language tells the audience what kind of man he is. Contrasting to Laertes' quick response, Hamlet procrastinates. Although Hamlet wants to regain honour by avenging his father's death, he is dubious of his ability to complete what he promised to the ghost. For two months he procrastinates, and rebukes himself for doing so. Hamlet agonizes over what he is to do and how he is to avenge the murder of his father whilst Laertes acts on impulse and on a tryst with Claudius arising from the emotions of anger and revenge. Hamlet mulls over how he is going to act and defers action until his own procrastination disgusts him into acting. This does not mean, however that Hamlet is unable to act on impulse. ...read more.

Conclusion

Indeed, it seems his thoughts that are revealed throughout the play are those of a scholar rather than soldier. The last scene of the play demonstrates more than any the true character of Fortinbras. He arrives at Elsinore, analyses the scene, then acts upon it. His action to avenge his father's death is carefully analysed and his plan executed, unlike Hamlet's continual pensiveness and illogical steps towards vengeance. Hamlet and Laertes represent inaction and action. Fortinbras, as a scholar and a soldier is the midpoint of these two extremes, his ability to reason and then act upon the reason has resulted in his assumption to the lands he sought to attain, and the throne he set out to avenge. Laertes' repentance, regret and forgiving nature at the end of the play show the audience another side of the hasty, headstrong character allowing him to be contrasted with Claudius who never repents or admits his sins, "words without thoughts, never to heaven go." Hamlet and Laertes not only succeed at avenging their fathers' murders but also exchange forgiveness before they die, leaving the audience with the final conclusion that Laertes is but another victim of the "incestuous, murderous, damned Dane", Claudius, and whose death is a tragedy in itself. - 1 - AS English Jo Maund 12TOP January 2002 ...read more.

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