Hamlet Essay, Research Paper
William Shakespeare s Hamlet is a tragedy set around the murder of the king of Denmark. One of the main themes of the story is revenge. Within the story, there are three sons who must avenge their respective father s death. Hamlet, the prince of Denmark, Fortinbras, the prince of Norway, and Laertes, the son of the Danish king s advisor, all are examples of the typical sons of this period in time. It was legal to kill the person who murdered your father and thus, these three men were justified in their plight. However similar their situations may be, Hamlet, Fortinbras, and Laertes all set about their revenge in different manners.
Hamlet is the main character of this story and his revenge is the most central to the plot of the tragedy. When Hamlet finds out from his father s ghost that his uncle killed his father, Hamlet vows to avenge him. Claudius, Hamlet s uncle, not only murdered the king, but also married the queen and took over the throne within a month s time. Hamlet learns of this deceit while he is still melancholy and in mourning over his father s death. Hamlet, a normally indecisive character, sounds most definite in avenging his father s death when he says, Haste me to know t, that I with wings as swift/ As meditation or the thoughts of love/ May sweep to my revenge (I,iv,29-31). As adamant as Hamlet may sound about killing Claudius, he is still unsure about Claudius s guilt. He needs to find proof. Hamlet decides to have the visiting players put on a show resembling that of his father s actual murder. If the king seems to look flustered by the play, then Hamlet can carry out his revenge. The plays the thing/ Wherein I ll catch the conscience of the king (III,i,579-80). Thus, Hamlet is serious about avenging his fathers death, however, he is still indecisive about following through with it.
Fortinbras is the son of the late King of Norway, who was killed in battle by Hamlet s father, the King of Denmark. Since Fortinbras cannot murder his father s assassin because he is deceased, he decides to take back all lands that Denmark acquired from his country. Fortinbras is a noble character, perhaps the most decent in the play, for when he is told by his uncle to leave the Danes alone he follows suit. Even though he feels the great need to avenge his father s murder, Fortinbras gallantly agrees to pass through Denmark instead of taking it over and makes vow before his uncle never more/ To give th assay of arms against (his) majesty (II,ii,70-1). Perhaps his honor is what keeps him alive at the end of the play, while the majority of the other characters are killed.
Laertes is the most overly eager out of the three sons avenging their fathers deaths in Hamlet. When Laertes learns of his father s death he is extremely vengeful. Let come what comes, only I ll be revenged/ Most thoroughly for my father (IV,v,132-3). When Laertes discovers that it was Hamlet who killed his father, and not some random countryman, he is enraged. Not only has Hamlet killed his dear father but also he has forced his sister Ophelia into madness. Laertes is furious and he vows to make Hamlet suffer. It warms the very sickness in my heart/ That I shall live and tell him to his teeth/ Thus didest thou (IV,vi,55-6). Laertes conspires with Claudius to kill Hamlet in a fencing match. In normal circumstances, Laertes might think Claudius s willingness to kill his own nephew/stepson is atrocious, however, in his rage, Laertes thinks nothing of the situation.
In comparison, Hamlet, Fortinbras, and Laertes all possess a general sense of revenge and a need to get back at whoever wronged their fathers . Their courses of action, however, are very different. By the end of the tragedy, all works out for the best and each man gets his revenge. Laertes kills Hamlet, Hamlet kills Claudius, and Fortinbras is able to take back his lands once the ruling forces of Denmark are deceased. As in the typical Shakespearean tragedy, the main characters die before ever seeing the result of their actions.