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What are the similarities between Hamlet and Laertes?

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gaileyrae | Student, Undergraduate | eNoter

Posted April 1, 2012 at 4:50 AM via web

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What are the similarities between Hamlet and Laertes?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted April 1, 2012 at 7:00 AM (Answer #1)

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Although the more impetuous Laertes is a foil to Hamlet in Shakespeare's famous play, he and Hamlet do share similarities:

1. While the circumstances for the deaths of the fathers of Hamlet and of Laertes are certainly different, the deaths of their fathers are both the result of political conflict.

2. After these deaths, both Hamlet and Laertes are at first rash in their anger, directing their fury at Claudius. Upon learning from his father's ghost that he has been assassinated, Hamlet's first words are

Haste me to know't, that I, with wings as swift
As meditation or the thoughts of love,
May sweep to my revenge (1.5.33-35)

Likewise, upon learning after his return to Denmark that his father has been slain, Laertes bursts in upon Claudius and Gertrude, demanding to know how his father has died. Daring damnation, Laertes asserts,

Let come what comes; only I'll be revenged
Most throughly for my father. (4.5.145-146)

3.  Both Hamlet and Laertes seek revenge for their fathers' deaths. The revenge of Laertes, however, is personal and he does not worry about the consequences,

To hell, allegiance! Vows, to the blackest devil!
Conscience and grace, to the profoundest pit!
I dare damnation. (4.5.141-143)

whereas Hamlet deliberates about regicide and he does consider the spiritual consequences to both himself in his "To be or not to be" soliloquy in which he declares that conscience makes cowards of people, and in his concern that if he kills Claudius while he prays, he may send the evil king to heaven as a martyr.

4.  Both Hamlet and Laertes experience a change in conscience. As the duel orchestrated by King Claudius plays out, Claudius begins to have twinges of conscience regarding Hamlet as he realizes that Claudius has exploited him in order to be rid of Hamlet the prince.  He tells Hamlet the king is "to blame," and asks Hamlet his forgiveness,

Exchange forgiveness with me, noble Hamlet.
Mine and my father's death come not upon thee,
Nor thine on me! (5.2.337-339)

Hamlet's change of conscience regards his decision to act as the prince of Denmark and defend his father's memory. After watching and speaking with Fortinbras, Hamlet declares, "This is I,/Hamlet the Dane" (5.1.227) and, thenceforth, takes action against the "usurper," Claudius.

5. Both Laertes and Hamlet seek to keep Ophelia safe from the political subterfuge in which she resides. Laertes acts the big brother and consuls Ophelia to protect her virtue and never allow Hamlet, who is the prince and must marry to suit the state, to take advantage of her in any way.

In his cruelty to Ophelia as he watches the play, Hamlet may be extending protective gestures toward her by forcing her to reject him.  In this way, Ophelia will not become involved in his revenge against the king when he does take it.  While there is certainly some bitterness about what he views as betrayal by Ophelia, Hamlet cannot truly hate her or he would not react as he does later on when he learns of Ophelia's funeral.

6. At Ophelia's funeral, both Laertes and Hamlet react similarly.  Both jump into her grave, declaring their love for Ophelia.  As Laertes vows revenge, Hamlet states that he has in him "something dangerous," too, telling Laertes,

I loved Ophelia. Forty thousand brothers
Could not, with all their quantity of love,
Make up my sum. What wilt thou do for her? (5.1.270-272)

Different in approach, they yet share some matters of the heart.


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arjun | College Teacher | Valedictorian

Posted February 11, 2013 at 4:22 AM (Answer #2)

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There are some similarities found between Hamlet and Laertes:

01. Both are brave.

02. Both are deprived of their fathers.

03. Both are ready to take revenge of their father,

04. Both are the prey of the conspiracy of Claudius.

05. Both love duel and obey rules and regulations.

06. Hamlet loves Ophelia as lover and where as Laertes loves her as sister.

07. Both die at the end of the play.



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