Hamlet : Fortinbras' Importance

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  • Topic: Hamlet, Tourism in Denmark, Norway
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  • Published : October 8, 1999
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Fortinbras: An Important Character in Hamlet

Oftentimes, the minor characters in a play can be vital and, among other things, function to further the action of the play or to reveal and illuminate the personalities of other characters. In Hamlet, Fortinbras, the Norwegian Prince, serves as the most important foil of Hamlet and provides us with the actions and emotions in which we can compare to those of Hamlet and better reveal Hamlet's own character. Because Hamlet and Fortinbras both lost their fathers and have sworn to avenge their deaths, Fortinbras is a perfect parallel of Hamlet. He was also very crucial to the play's ending and to bring a remedy to the corruption that has plagued Denmark.

Fortinbras father, King of Norway, was killed during battle for control of "a little patch of ground"(4.4, 19). Fortinbras' uncle claims the throne of Norway just as Hamlet's uncle takes the throne at Denmark. The deaths of Hamlet Sr. and Fortinbras Sr. directly link the common destiny of Fortinbras to that of Hamlet, to avenge the death of his father. It is because of this that the two young soldiers can be compared to each other. Fortinbras' taking action after his reasoning is contrasting to Hamlet's continual lackadaisical steps towards revenge. Hamlet realizes this and comtrasts himself to Fortinbras in his "How stand I then"(4.4, 59) speech 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"(4.4, 51) after speaking with a captain in his army and hearing of Fortinbras' progress. It is inspiring to Hamlet and it pushes him forward in carrying out his plan to kill Claudius. Hamlet's last lines, "How all occasions…my thoughts be bloody or be nothing worth!"(4.5, 34-69) say that Fortinbras has won him over from any further doubts and Hamlet, too, wishes to become a man of action who is ready to take his revenge at any cost.

It can be said that Fortinbras is...
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