Laertes V. Hamlet

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 12th grade January 2002

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The play Hamlet by William Shakespeare is full of characters that could easily be compared and contrasted to each other. One of the easiest pairs to do at first glance would've probably been young Hamlet and young Fortinbras. Obviously, one, young Fortinbras, is a fighter, and one, young Hamlet, is a scholar. These are the most apparent of the contrasting characters. Upon looking a little deeper however, the similarities and differences between young Hamlet and Laertes are much more profound.

Laertes and Hamlet both display impulsive reactions when angered. Once Laertes discovers his father has been murdered Laertes immediately assumes the slayer is Claudius. As a result of Laertes' speculation he instinctively moves to avenge Polonius' death. "To hell, allegiance! Vows, to the blackest devil! Conscience and grace, to the profoundest pit! I dare damnation: to this point I stand, that both worlds I give to negligence, let come what comes; only I'll be revenged most thoroughly for my father."

Act 4 Scene 5 lines 149-154 provide this insight into Laertes' mind displaying his desire for revenge at any cost. In contrast to Laertes speculation of his father's killer, Hamlet presumes the individual spying on his conversation with Gertrude is Claudius ("Nay, I know not: is it the King?" Act 3, Scene 4 line 32). Consequently, Hamlet consumed with rage automatically thrusts out attempting to kill Claudius, but instead strikes Polonius. Hamlet's and Laertes' imprudent actions are incited by fury and frustration. Sudden anger prompts both Hamlet and Laertes to act spontaneously, giving little thought to the consequences of their actions.

Hamlet and Laertes both share a deep but different love and concern for Ophelia. Before his departure for France Laertes provides lengthy advice to Ophelia pertaining to her relationship with Hamlet. Laertes voices his...