Hamlet Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

Hamlet book cover
Start Your Free Trial

Why is Fortinbras's presence important? Hamlet (act 5)

Expert Answers info

mwestwood eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2006

write16,150 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

In Shakespeare's Hamlet, the appearance of Hamlet's foil, Fortinbras, a man of brevity, loyalty, and bravery, provides the impetus to Hamlet's final actions.  Like Hamlet, Fortinbras has had a father slain, but he immediately seeks revenge.  But, unlike Hamlet the procrastinator, he is, as Claudius brazenly calls him "an opportunist."  Horatio warns that Fortinbras (whose name suggests strength [fort=strong]) "is going to recover of us by strong hand" the lands that King Hamlet has taken from his father. And, like Hamlet he is the true heir to the throne of his country, the Prince of Norway as Hamlet is the Prince of Denmark.  The loyalty of Fortinbras impels him to avenge his father; however, it also causes him to faithfully obey his uncle's wishes not to bear arms against Denmark while Hamlet waivers between thoughts of revenge and despairing ideas of suicide.

Finally, in Act V, when Hamlet who waivers in his loyalty to his murdered father witnesses the valor of Fortinbras, he is in...

(The entire section contains 2 answers and 778 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now


check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Susan Smith eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write713 answers

starTop subjects are Literature and Social Sciences

check Approved by eNotes Editorial


silentgloom | Student

Fortinbras is perhaps the strangest. He is barely seen and speaks little. Other characters often speak of him in low tones. Oddly enough, though, Fortinbras is a stabilizing force in the action of the play and he also functions as a framing device for the play itself. He makes his presence known only at the beginning, middle and end. click the link to read more