Hamlet Minor Characters
by William Shakespeare

Hamlet book cover
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Fortinbras is the Prince of Norway, whose father was slain in battle by King Hamlet. His campaign to reclaim the lands that his father lost to Denmark after his death becomes one of the subplots of Hamlet. Fortinbras’s story reflects the idea of revenge as cyclical. Hamlet is inspired by Fortinbras’s tenacity and ambition as he watches Fortinbras’s army wage war over a relatively useless piece of land. This inspiration gives Hamlet the resolve to go through with killing Claudius. Fortinbras does not appear in-person until his army arrives in Denmark at the end of the play. Prior to dying, Hamlet remarks that Fortinbras will likely become the new monarch of Denmark and offers his blessing. Fortinbras successfully achieves his revenge by reclaiming the lands his father lost, but it is unclear whether his actions end the cycle of violence and revenge in Denmark. 

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Reynaldo is the servant that Polonius sends to France to spy on Laertes. Reynaldo questions Polonius’ intentions, but he ultimately goes along with his master’s bidding. Fundamentally, Reynaldo serves to highlight Polonius’s underhanded methods and Laertes’s unsavory behavior. 

First Clown and Second Clown

The clowns are gravediggers whom Hamlet encounters after returning from England. Hamlet asks the first clown whose grave he is digging, but he proceeds to talk circles around Hamlet. The first clown also offers an external perspective on the events of the play, as he relays the common opinion that Hamlet is mad and that he has gone to England to recover. However, he also exemplifies how little the problems of the monarchy matter to the common people by dismissing the situation as unimportant. His wit rivals Hamlet’s, leading Hamlet to exclaim that the gap between the wealthy and the poor is shrinking. 


Osric is a member of the Danish court. He is sent to fetch Hamlet and Horatio for the duel, at which time Hamlet mocks him. Osric represents the superficiality of the Danish nobility, a group who, Hamlet claims, buy their way into Claudius’s good graces because they crave power and influence. He speaks in flowery, elevated language and flatters those more powerful...

(The entire section is 546 words.)