Contrast Between Hamlet, Laertes And Fortinbras

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Hamlet (prince of Denmark) can be greatly compared to Laertes (son of a noble), and Fortinbras (prince of Norway) in the play. They all are very similar but yet different at the same time. They all had love and respect for their fathers and felt the need to avenge their deaths, which all were brutally killed. All three believed that the murderers had dishonoured their fathers as well as themselves. They all reacted and took different approaches in attempt to restore honour in their families.
Hamlet seems to be the one who lets things dwell in his mind before taking any action or making an attempt at trying to get on with his life. After the death of his father he becomes depressed and gradually becomes enraged with his mother’s immediate marriage to his uncle Claudius. He was lead to believe his father died of natural cause but he became aware of the murderer when his father’s ghost appeared to him. When Hamlet learns the truth of his father’s murder, he cries, but promises action, though he delivers none. 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.” (Act 1, Sc. 5, 29-31). At the end of the scene he says “The time is out of joint: O cursed spite, that ever I was born to set it right!” (Act 1, Sc. 5, 188-189). This shows that he is no longer in such a rush to avenge his father’s death by killing his uncle Claudius.
The appearance of his father’s ghost didn’t seem very reliable to him as he began to question his own sanity over what he thinks he should do about the situation. Hamlet deeply contemplates about his soul being damned on actions he was willing to pursue in avenging his father’s death. He cautiously plots his act of revenge and waits for the ideal moment to avenge his father’s murder. He decides to show King Claudius a play, a similar performance of Claudius’ own murderous deed, hopefully seeing some kind of reaction from the king. He says “I’ll have these players play something like the murder of my father before mine uncle: I’ll observe his looks; I’ll tent him to the quick: if he but blench, I know my course. (Act 2 Sc. 2, 597-599). When “the King rises” unexpectedly, it proves to Hamlet of the King’s guilt and that he indeed killed his father. This is also proves the reality of the ghost to Hamlet.
Hamlet had the opportunity to kill Claudius at the chapel but restrained himself, he believed it was too good of a death for Claudius and that if he were killed his sins would be forgiven. This shows his lack of action and proves he is a procrastinator. In his soliloquies he constantly criticizes himself for the obvious avoidance of responsibility saying, “Am I a coward? Who calls me villain? breaks my pate across? Plucks off my beard, and blows it in my face? Tweaks me by the nose? gives me the lie i’ the throat, as deep as to the lungs? who does me this?” (Act 2 Sc. 2, 571-575)
Laertes acts the most irrationally and rapidly. When Laertes discovers that his father was murdered, he becomes outraged and demonstrates his uncontrolled character as he storms into the castle of Denmark overthrowing the guards and demanding answers about his father’s death and questionable funeral. “O thou vile king, give me my father!” (Act 4 Sc.5, 119-120). He is enraged that his father was not buried with his sword and that there was no memorial. When Laertes learns that Hamlet killed his father, he gives no thought to the damnation of his soul as he immediately makes a plan with Claudius to poison and kill Hamlet. Laertes’ hatred toward Hamlet overrules his rational thought, as he acts on emotions alone, and agrees to “be ruled” (Act 4 Sc.7, 70) by the King so that Hamlet “shall not choose but fall and for his death no wind of blame shall breathe, but even his mother shall uncharged the practise and call it accident” (Act 4, Sc. 7, 65-69).
Both Laertes and Hamlet grieve deeply for their fathers, but Laertes acts upon this grief while Hamlet carefully plots his revenge and waits for the perfect timing to avenge King Hamlet. Laertes’ unplanned actions caused his death by his own sword.


Fortinbras acts the most rationally out of the three. After learning that the late King Hamlet was responsible for his father’s death, he does not act irrationally like Laertes or become a coward like Hamlet. He takes the time to establish an army and seek revenge upon the country of Denmark. He does not act out in temporary madness like Laertes and Hamlet, but stops to develop a plan and realizes the rewards of a victory and consequences of a loss. Fortinbras’ plan also turned out to be effective. He carried out his plan under the law without the risk of his soul being damned to hell. Even Hamlet saw him as a man of rationale and a good leader as he offered the crown of Denmark upon him before his death.


Hamlet realized his lack of action and contrasted himself to Fortinbras in his “What is a man”(Act 4 Sc.4, 35) soliloquy and labels Fortinbras as a man of action and labels himself as a procrastinator whose words lead to no action. Hamlet calls him “a tender prince”(51) after speaking with a captain in his army and hearing of Fortinbras’ progress. It is inspiring to Hamlet and it provides him motivation in carrying out his plan to kill Claudius. Hamlet’s last lines, “To hide the slain? O, from this time forth,
my thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth!” (Act 4 Sc.5, 68-69) say that Fortinbras has inspired him to become a man of action who is ready to take on revenge at any cost.

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