Hamlet vs. Laertes

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Jeffrey Kotch
Mrs. Ingram
Literary Analysis
English 12

The main theme in Hamlet is revenge. Although Hamlet and Laertes are both seeking revenge, they go about it differently. Because they are in the same situation, they can be compared to one another. Shakespeare probably created the retaliatory Laertes in order to make the reader or audience side with Hamlet, the protagonist. By comparing him to the rash Laertes, the author forces the reader to appreciate the careful thought that goes into Hamlet's every move (until towards the end when he too becomes rash). They are both high-class males placed in strenuous positions. Without Laertes, the audience would have no one else to compare Hamlet to, other than Fortinbras, who rarely appears. Laertes is almost the standard to which Shakespeare wants his audience to compare the Prince to. Comparing the two almost intensifies their different characteristics. The differences between Laertes and Hamlet affect a main theme of the play revenge. Both men have fathers killed, and both are seeking revenge. Hamlet, though he knows who murdered his father, hesitates to take direct action against the villain. In stark contrast is Laertes, who doesn’t know who killed his father but will kill anyone on a whim. Laertes’ rashness throughout provides the play with an unlikely stereotypical hero-- brave, unwavering, ready to kill-- and is rather ironic because Laertes is not the play’s “hero” role. The hero instead is Hamlet, and Hamlet is not a typical hero, in that he shies away from violence, and is portrayed as insane for half of the play (though that is by his own doing). Hamlet is not even able to kill his uncle until Act 5, by which time he can be argued to be mentally and emotionally instable, if not insane. In order to avenge his father’s death, Hamlet must lose himself in insanity; he must become, essentially, an entirely different character. Another considerable difference between Hamlet and Laertes are their...
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