The Importance Of Laertes And Fortinbras Essay

, Research Paper

In the Shakespearean play, Hamlet, Laertes and Fortinbras have important roles although they are minor characters. Fortinbras and Laertes importance arise because they are parallel characters to Hamlet, and they provide pivotal points on which to compare the actions and emotions of Hamlet throughout the play. They are also important in Hamlet, as they are imperative to the plot of the play and the final resolution.

Laertes is a mirror to Hamlet. Shakespeare has made them similar in many aspects to provide a greater base for comparison when avenging their respective father s deaths. Hamlet and Laertes love Ophelia. Hamlet wishes Ophelia to be his wife, Laertes loves Ophelia as a sister. Hamlet is a scholar at Wittenberg, and Laertes at France. Both are admired for their swordsmenship. Both men loved and respected their fathers, and display deviousness when plotting to avenge their father s deaths. Hamlet s response to grief is a trait starkly contrasted by Laertes. Laertes response to the death of his father is immediate. He is publicly angry, and he leads a riot that occurs outside Elsinore, for which Polonius death and quick burial served as a catalyst. He is suspicious, as is evident in his speech to Claudius. “How came he dead? I ll not be juggled with. / To hell, allegiance!” (Act 4, 5:130). Hamlet however is very private with his grief. His mourning for King Hamlet is long and drawn out, two months after his father s death, he is still observed to be wearing ” suits of solemn black.” (Act 1, 2:78) Claudius and Gertrude comment on his unhappiness, however it is not until Hamlet s first soliloquy that the audience is made aware of the depth of his suffering. Although dismayed at his mother s quick remarriage to his uncle, Hamlet suspects nothing of his father s murder until the ghost discloses this to him. When brought to the call of avenging their father s deaths, Laertes is fast to act, he wants revenge and wants it immediately. His actions are rash, based in anger, and Claudius easily draws Laertes into Denmark s corruption. Claudius manipulates Laertes into becoming Hamlet s assassin. Laertes is confident of his abilities to regain honor through vengeance: ” my revenge will come.” (Act1, 2:78) Contrasting to Laertes quick response, Hamlet procrastinates. Although Hamlet wants to regain honor by avenging his father s death, Hamlet is dubious of his ability to complete what he promised to the ghost. For two months, he procrastinates, and chides himself for doing so. Hamlet agonizes over what he is to do, and how he is to avenge the murder of his father. While 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, since in Act V Hamlet acts impulsively when he and Laertes jumped into Ophelia s grave.

However, despite the insidious actions of Laertes in proposing the challenge of a duel with Hamlet, Laertes is without the cruelty and vindictiveness of Hamlet. Hamlet


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