How does the character of Laertes relate to contemporary society under the themes of love and revenge in Hamlet?

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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It's clear in Hamlet that Laertes is a young man bent on revenge out of love for both his sister and his father. I'm not sure that makes him particularly contemporary.  There is clearly a contemporary culture which is certainly all about personally avenging deaths--no questions asked.  Perhaps that's what your question refers to, though I'm not sure.  Most of us, however, take a more reasoned approach and are willing to wait on the judicial system to provide justice.  Laertes clearly loved his sister and was devastated first at her apparent loss of sanity and then her death; he also clearly saw it as his duty to avenge his father's death.  The fact that Hamlet was responsible for both nearly drives him crazy.  How that fits in a contemporary world is a bit unclear to me, as most of us don't connect the two or take any action toward personal revenge. 

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Shakespeare's Hamlet, it is clear that Laertes is a foil of Hamlet since whereas Hamlet is thought, deliberating continuously, Laertes is all action.  So, with the prevalent reality programs and movies that portray violence and aggressive action, Laertes is a man for the less pensive contemporary society.

After his father's death, Laertes confronts King Claudius personally, demanding to know the whereabouts of his father's body.  He argues with a priest for being disrespectful towards his sister; he fights Hamlet above his sister's grave, and ultimately, in his desire for revenge, he conspires with Claudius to kill Hamlet.  Truly, Laertes could be a candidate for the Jerry Springer Show or an action film.

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Hamlet

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