How does Hamlet compare to Pyrrhus?In Act II, Scene II of Hamlet, an actor (the player) and Hamlet tell the story of Priam and Pyrrhus. What comparisons can be made between Hamlet and Priam?

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ms-mcgregor | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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In both stories, revenge for the death of a father plays an important part. Achilles kills Priam's son, Hector. Priam's son, Paris, kills Achilles. Then, in revenge, Achillie's son, Pyrrus, takes revenge for his father's death by killing Priam viciously. Pyrrus is not troubled by killing Priam, even as Priam begs for his life. In "Hamlet", young Hamlet's delays and procrastinates taking revenge for his father's death at the hands of Claudius. In fact, after the scene you mention, Hamlet chides himself in a long soliloquy over his ability "to do nothing". Thus, the comparison should be between Pyrrhus and Hamlet. Pyrrhus, like Fortinbras, is a man of action and murders the killer of his father. Hamlet, on the other hand, simply thinks and thinks and thinks about taking revenge.

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favoritethings | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

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Yes, Pyrrhus is yet one more example in the play of active sons, loyal sons who seek and take immediate revenge for the murders of their fathers.  As the other commenter mentions, the real comparison is between Hamlet and Pyrrhus because Pyrrhus quickly and violently avenges his father's death, but Hamlet overthinks every move and even, once, talks himself out of killing Claudius, his uncle, step-father, and the murderer of his father, because Claudius appears to be at prayer and Hamlet doesn't want to kill him only to send him to heaven. 

In addition to Pyrrhus, Fortinbras is yet another good example of a loyal and quick-acting son, as is Laertes.  When Hamlet kills his father, Polonius, and the royal family buries him quickly and without ceremony (a move that provokes suspicion about the nature of his death), Laertes returns immediately from France to confront the king and seek his revenge on his father's killer.  It is, in fact, this attempt to exact his revenge on Hamlet that leads to the deaths of Hamlet, Claudius, Gertrude, and himself in the final scene of the play.  Thus, Shakespeare gives his audience three examples of loyal sons, sons with whom Hamlet can compare himself and find his own actions wanting, and Pyrrhus is one of these.

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