Shakespeare's Hamlet: compare and contrast Hamlet vs. Laertes

Topics: Hamlet, Characters in Hamlet, King Hamlet Pages: 6 (1419 words) Published: April 3, 2003
No two individuals are alike, regardless of similar upbringing. It is reasonable to assume that even twins brought up in exactly the same environment, sharing the same daily activities, and living practically the same life, will act differently when faced with the same situation. Each individual evolves with his or her own uniqueness, style, and way of life. The audience witnesses this phenomenon in Shakespeare's Hamlet. Lord Hamlet and Laertes experienced similar childhoods, and shared similar family attributes. They were both born into royalty and throughout their lives were treated as such. Hamlet and Laertes were reared with the same forms of schooling, and were taught to abide by the same ethics and morals. Although Hamlet and Laertes seem to be "twined" with regard to family, royalty, and school, it is evident to the audience how such environmentally similar people can react so differently when faced with comparable situations. One such example arises when Hamlet and Laertes are consumed by a very basic human characteristic, that of revenge. Hamlet and Laertes, although very similar in most respects, differ in that Laertes is driven by passion and Hamlet is driven by reason.

Shakespeare exposes to his audience the similarities between Hamlet and Laertes in various instances throughout the play. It is known to the reader that Hamlet and Laertes are both sons of royalty, Hamlet being the son of the former true king of Denmark, King Hamlet, and Laertes being the son of the trusted counselor to the king, Polonius. The reader is able to deduce from the manner of both families, that although they differ, they live very similar lives, and their sons Hamlet and Laertes are quite alike. For example, Hamlet and Laertes have a unique similar respect for their fathers. In one instance, in Hamlet's first soliloquy, he proclaims respect towards his father in saying that he was an excellent king, like the glorious sun god of classical mythology, and that he is so loving to his wife, Gertrude. "Hamlet: So excellent a king, that was to this Hyperion to a satyr, so loving to my mother that he might not beteem the winds of heaven visit her face too roughly." (Shakespeare 14) As well, although Laertes does not know who killed his father, out of respect for him, he swears he will have his vengeance regardless of what will happen to him in this world or the next. " Laertes: To this point I stand, that both the worlds I give to negligence, let come what comes, only I'll be reveng'd most thoroughly for my father." (Shakespeare 118) From here, the audience observes how similarly Hamlet and Laertes each have great respect for their fathers.

Another comparison to the seemingly similar manor of Hamlet and Laertes is that of the admirable mutual respect they have for each other, even throughout the twisted murders and losses of their loved ones. Hamlet and Laertes are on the verge of fighting a duel, a duel whose final purpose is hidden from Hamlet. Finally to Hamlets dismay he learns that the hidden purpose of the duel was for Laertes to exact revenge for the death of his father and sister. Yet, all the while Hamlet obliterates his antic disposition and publicly apologizes to Laertes for the deaths of Polonius and his sister, Ophelia. With that Laertes replies he has forgiven Hamlet but in order to save his honor and the honor of his house he must continue with the duel. Hamlet accepts graciously:


...Sir, in this audience,

Let my disclaiming from a purpos'd evil

Free me so far in your most generous thoughts

That I have shot my arrow o'er the house

And hurt my brother.


I am satisfied in nature,

Whose motive in this case should stir me most

To my revenge; but in my terms of honour

I stand aloof, and will no reconcilement

Till by some elder masters of known honour

I have a voice and precedent of peace

To keep my name ungo'd. But till that time

I do receive your offer'd love like love...
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