What does the violent argument between Hamlet and Laertes add to the play?

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gbeatty eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The violent clash between Hamlet and Laertes in Act V shows a lot about both of their characters. It shows that Hamlet wants to do the right thing (apologize), and underscores his affection for Ophelia. It shows that Laertes wants to do the right thing—but that he is as committed to his revenge for Ophelia and Polonius as Hamlet is to his revenge for his father. It shows that both can be manipulated (explicitly, by kings and father figures), that both share family feeling, and that both can be driven by events larger than they are. It also adds drama and literal violence by ending in a duel.