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How does the King manipulate Laertes in Act Four, Scene Seven?

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Introduction

How does the King manipulate Laertes in Act Four, Scene Seven? The beginning of this scene is clearly a continuation of the conversation between the King and Laertes in IV.5. From the first line it is clear that the King is willing to do anything possible to ingratiate himself with the young man, abandoning the royal "we" seen so often during the play in favour of "my", which immediately narrows the social gap between the two men and enabling Laertes to see the King as an equal, which is then strengthened by the positioning of "my after "your", referring to Laertes, and therefore displaying humility and supposed high regard for him. The King continues to beg sympathy from Laertes by asking for his friendship, and complimenting Laertes' "knowing ear" and intelligence before describing Polonius as "noble". He continues to attempt to humanise himself by describing his seemingly selfless love for the Queen as "conjunctive to my life and soul", an astronomical term giving him heroic status and leading in smoothly to the comparison between stars in orbit and his love for the Queen. ...read more.

Middle

would merely help him to achieve "thine own peace" rather than any personal gain for the King himself: this show of sympathy and consideration is backed up by Shakespeare's use of the familiar "thine" to again add familiarity to the relationship between the two men. The King confidently assures Laertes of the infallibility of his plan by stating that Hamlet "shall not choose but fail", and to further press his point claims that "even his mother shall...call it accident", reneging on his previous claim to act only according to what would please the Queen and therefore demonstrating his dedication and commitment to the plot. Laertes indicates his interest in acting as "the organ" of Hamlet's destruction, leading the King to intensify his ingratiation with him. He begins to compliment Laertes on "a quality / Wherein they say you shine", cleverly using both the passive voice in line 70 and the deliberately vague third person pronoun "they" to make the praise sound more credible than if it had come from him alone. ...read more.

Conclusion

The attribution of the venom to Hamlet also implies that Laertes will simply be retaliating when he fights with the poisoned sword rather than it being an unfair fight, which Laertes eventually expresses qualms about. The King also gives Laertes higher status over Hamlet by claiming that all the Prince did was "wish and beg...to play with you", likening him to a petulant child and therefore lowering both his status and his dignity. The King concludes by insinuating that Laertes is false in his grief, "like the painting of a sorrow" in order to incite him to violent action, considerably out of character after his rational inquiries such as "What out of this, my lord?". Beginning with a typically defensive "Not that I think you did not love your father", but then continues to talk about people who fall prey to "abatements and delays", ironically similar to Hamlet himself. Claudius ends with an uncharacteristically direct question reminding Laertes that he is "your father's son", which immediately provokes the younger man to swear to kill Hamlet, thereby achieving his aim and sealing his fate. Chiara Giovanni 13Y 02.11.2011 849 words ...read more.

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