Hamlet Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

Hamlet book cover
Start Your Free Trial

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

Expert Answers info

Wallace Field eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseTeacher (K-12)

calendarEducator since 2016

write7,214 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Arts

When Hamlet speaks with the captain about young Fortinbras, on his way to fight for some scrawny piece of land that has no real merit, he cannot help compare himself to the young Norwegian. Fortinbras is busy working to restore his own and his father's honor, while Hamlet remains relatively inactive and has not yet achieved any real measure of revenge on his uncle. He says,

Rightly to be great
Is not to stir without great argument,
But greatly to find quarrel in a straw
When honor’s at the stake. How stand I then,
That have a father killed, a mother stained,
Excitements of my reason and my blood,
And let all sleep—while, to my shame, I see
The imminent death of twenty thousand men,
That for a fantasy and trick of fame
Go to their graves like beds, fight for a plot
Whereon the numbers cannot try the cause,
Which is not tomb enough and continent
To hide the slain? Oh, from this time forth,
My thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth! (4.4.53-66)
Hamlet has compared himself to Fortinbras and found himself...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 644 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

kirstens eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2003

write27 answers

starTop subject is Literature

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

alexb2 eNotes educator | Certified Educator


bookB.A. from Georgetown University

calendarEducator since 2004

write726 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Science

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

revolution | Student


  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.
cokes | Student

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.