Hamlet Vs Fortinbras Essay Research Paper HAMLET

Hamlet Vs. Fortinbras Essay, Research Paper


In Hamlet the character of Fortinbras, a young Norwegian

prince, has been used as a foil for the main character Hamlet,

the Prince of Denmark. Hamlet and Fortinbras have both lost

their fathers to untimely deaths. Hamlet’s father, King Hamlet,

was killed by his uncle Claudius and Fortinbras’ father was

killed by King Hamlet. Both Hamlet and Fortinbras have vowed to

take revenge for the deaths of their fathers. However, how they

go about doing this is the complete opposite of the other.

Hamlet, after learning that his father’s death was murder

and promising to take revenge, waits and makes sure that what he

knows is the absolute truth before he even attempts to take

revenge on Claudius. Even after Hamlet is sure beyond any doubts

that Claudius is the murderer, he hesitates to kill him.

Fortinbras, however, has been taking action even before the play

begins. As the play opens, we learn that Denmark is in a state

of alert. The audience learns that the country has been pre-

paring for a war, and from Horatio, the they also learn that the

young Fortinbras is getting ready his “lawless resolutes” for

action against Denmark for the killing of his father and for the

return of lands previously owned by Norway, (Hamlet I.i. 79-107)

These differences between Hamlet’s and Fortinbras’ action are

further mentioned in Hamlet’s last soliloquy, (Hamlet IV.iv. 32-


Before the soliloquy begins, Hamlet has been informed by one

of Fortinbras’s Captains that Norway is preparing to fight

Poland over a “little patch of land”, and that twenty thousand

men are willing to fight for this worthless piece of land just

for honor’s sake. This begins Hamlet’s last soliloquy. In it

Hamlet is reflecting upon Fortinbras’ determination to go

against the Polish army for the honor over a trivial matter

while he himself is taking such a long time in avenging the his

father’s fate and his mother’s disgrace.

The soliloquy begins with Hamlet’s thoughts on how much

time has passed and he still hasn’t done anything. He says:

“How all occasions do inform against me,

And spur my dull revenge! What is a man,

If his chief good and market of his time

Be but to sleep and feed? a beast, no more.”

(Hamlet IV.iv. 32-35)

In these lines, Hamlet is thinking about all the time he has

wasted in not taking action. He sees how everything around him

is taking shape, all except his own actions. He goes on to say

“Sure, he that made us with such large discourse, Looking before

and after, gave us not that capability and god-like reason to

fust in us unus’d “(36-39) Here Hamlet is saying that every man

has reason, and that reason should be put to good use. He also

expresses the thought that he has “……cause and will and

strength and means to do’t” (45-46) but still waits and thinks

instead of taking action.

Next, Hamlet goes on to describes Fortinbras. He asks the

audience to:

“Witness this army of such mass and charge

Led by a delicate and tender prince,

Whose spirit with divine ambition puf’d

Makes mouths at the invisible event,

Exposing what is mortal and unsure

To all that fortune, death and danger dare,

Even for an egg-shell. Rightly to be great

Is not to stir without great argument,

But greatly to find quarrel in a straw

When honour’s at the stake.” (47-56)

These lines are describing Fortinbras. The audience learns

that Fortinbras is this young, driven, and ambitious prince who

is willing to risk everything for what he feels he must do and

achieve, even if it’s for an “egg-shell”. He is willing to risk

so much for so little just for his honor. This is a great con-

trast to Hamlet’s own character. Hamlet then finishes his soli-

loquy with a comparison to his situation and that of Fortinbras

and his army of twenty-thousand men.

After learning of Fortinbras’ plan against Poland, Hamlet is

disgusted with his inability to avenge his father’s murder. He

wonders why he has “let all sleep” after his father’s wrongful

demise and the moral death of his mother, (56-59). He is even

more ashamed when he thinks of the twenty-thousand men who are

willing to go to their deaths for a valueless piece of land

that’s not even big enough for their graves, (59-65). All of

this is going on while he is still thinking about his revenge.

This was enough to set his mind once and for all. He decides

that from that moment on, all he will think about is his revenge

against anyone that has committed any injustice towards him. He

says “O, from this time forth, My thoughts be bloody, or be

nothing more ” (65-66)

Hamlet’s personality is clear to the reader for the last

time in the play. He is contrasted against another Prince who is

the exact opposite of him in the same situation. By this, the

reader learns more about Hamlet’s characteristics and the way he

thinks. Also, here Hamlet has finally made a decision on what to

do. He has made up his mind to have only bloody thoughts instead

of ones that are well thought out. Fortinbras’ pursuit of his

goal has given Hamlet the example on how to act if an oppor-

tunity presents itself. Hamlet is so determined to do something

he does not wish to think about the consequences anymore.


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