How does Shakespeare invite us to compare and contrast Hamlet with Laertes and Fortinbras?

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kirstens | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

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If you consider the characters of Hamlet, Laertes, and Fortinbras they have remarkable similarities, thus inviting comparison.  First, they are all sons of murdered fathers.  Hamlet's father, like Fortinbras's, was a king and military leader.  Both were killed by men wanting power.  Interestingly, Hamlet and Fortinbras were both denied the throne after their fathers' murders.  Uncle Claudius kept Hamlet from the throne of Denmark, while Fortinbras's uncle usurped his throne. 

Considering Laertes, he is remarkably similar, as well.  Both Hamlet and Laertes have murdered fathers, though Polonius isn't a king.  Laertes and Hamlet are both tragically affected by Claudius.  Both Laertes and Hamlet are killed by the poison rapier that Claudius chose as a lethal weapon.  They were both killed in the pursuit of revenge, which Hamlet's V.ii apology to Laertes proves could have been avoided.

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alexb2 | eNotes Employee

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Laertes and Fortinbras both experience something similar to Hamlet, in that they are driven to seek revenge. Unlike Hamlet, they actually act on their feelings and do not suffer from the paralyzing doubt that Hamlet feels.

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revolution | College Teacher | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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  1. They are all seeking revenge for the murder of their fathers, military leaders, slain just for fame and glory
  2. They were denied of the throne and was taken over by someone by force
  3. They were mostly affected by Claudius, the poison ivy in the story


  1. Hamlet is a reflective and thoughtful but sometimes indecisive and hesitant but on some occasions, prone to rash and impulsive acts.
  2. Laertes is a complete foil for Hamlet. He is passionate and quick to action and do something good
  3. Fortinbas is also another foil for Hamlet. He act on his own feelings and thoughts without external factors affecting his own decisions.
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cokes | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

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shakespeare uses the theme of revenge to compare and contrast the three characters. All of them are revenge heros who are seeking revenge for their family and the family reputation. Hamlet wants revenge on his uncle claudius for killing his father. Laertes wants revenge on Hamlet for killing his Father polonious and causing the madness of his sister ophielia. Finally Fortinbras is going to war with poland in order to regain land lost by his deceased father. As we can see all of these characters want to take revenge for their fathers.

Also their attitudes are different and vary greatly. Hamlet is philosopical, about the concepts of life, death and human endevour. This makes him very hesitant. He is also very wordly and expresses his changing emotions verbally through the use of soliloquies, were he continously critisises himself and often works himself into a feigned anger.

On the other hand Fortinbras and Laertes are both strong minded, impulsive and eager to take action. Unlike Hamlet they do not think things through, thus making them typical tragic heros.

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