Grief for a Father's Death: Hamlet's vs. Laertes'

Topics: Hamlet, Characters in Hamlet, Gertrude Pages: 3 (1091 words) Published: April 30, 2001
In Shakespeare's Hamlet, Laertes and Hamlet both lose a father by unnatural and sudden death. The unnatural death of the father is brought on by someone close to the son. When Laertes discovers that his father is dead, he is outraged. When Hamlet learns from the ghost of his father's murder, he weeps, and promises action, though he delivers none. 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 moment to avenge King Hamlet. Laertes' unplanned action causes his death by his own sword, while Hamlet's apparent inaction finally gets him the revenge that Laertes has attempted. Though Laertes' grief at his father's death causes his action, Hamlet's grief for his father has more power.

Laertes' and Hamlet's immediate reactions when they learn of their father's unnatural deaths are widely different. When Laertes learns that his father is gone, he is outraged and "o'erbears [Claudius's] officers. The rabble call him lord…/ They cry ‘Choose we! Laertes shall be king!'" (4.5.105, 109). Laertes takes action immediately by bursting into the castle, and demanding "O thou vile king, / give me my father!" (4.5.119-20). Laertes' anger overrules his rational thought, and he acts with emotions alone, whereas Hamlet promises to act, but delivers only angry, grief-stricken soliloquies on how horrible it is that he does not act upon his feelings. Hamlet is amazed at his own inaction, that he, "the son of a dear father murdered, / Prompted to [his] revenge by heaven and hell, / Must like a whore unpack [his] heart with words / And fall a-cursing" (2.2.584-587). He berates himself for this ostensible dodging 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 my by the nose?… Who does me this?" (2.2.571-574, 575). Hamlet's inability to gain revenge astounds him, and unlike...
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