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Character in Hamlet - Essay Example

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[Name of Student] [Name of Instructor] [Course] [Date] The Character of Laertes in Hamlet The hero of Hamlet is usually taken to be the young prince of Denmark himself. Hamlet’s emotional struggle is a result of his trying to come to terms with the death of his father and with the hasty remarriage of his mother to his uncle…
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Character in Hamlet
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"Character in Hamlet"

Download file to see previous pages For instance, Hamlet’s relationship with Ophelia and her untimely death; Claudius’s plot to get Hamlet killed through the two minor characters: Rosencratz and Guildenstern; Polonius’s accidental death and so on. Among these minor characters Polonius’s son, Laertes, performs a vital role in the play. Over time, Hamlet’s character has come to be symbolic of indecision and postponement of action. In contrast to this is Laertes who is, in several ways, the exact opposite of Hamlet. This paper will explore what function Laertes serves in Hamlet and how this affects the reader’s perception of him. In the play, Laertes embodies quick decision-making and action and has been deliberately created to serve as a foil to Prince Hamlet, but is ultimately the more sympathetic character. Laertes is introduced in Act I, Scene II where Claudius with almost fatherly affection asks him of his news. Laertes reveals that he is about to return to France. The figure of Laertes then, is introduced at the beginning of the play but only to have him depart soon. His introduction, therefore, must be of some importance as it could easily have been postponed in the play. It is also significant that he is introduced before Hamlet himself. It is only after speaking to Laertes that Claudius turns to Hamlet: ‘But now, my cousin, Hamlet, and my son-.’ This turning from Laertes to Hamlet establishes right at the beginning, some degree of opposition between the two. It is as if Shakespeare, right from the start, deliberately and subtly positions Laertes in contrast to Hamlet. It is also significant to our argument that Laertes too is opposed, to some extent, to Hamlet from the beginning. He advises Ophelia to not take Hamlet’s profession of love for her too seriously: For Hamlet and the trifling of his favour, Hold it a fashion and a toy in blood, A violet in the youth of primy nature, Forward, not permanent, sweet, not lasting, The perfume and suppliance of a minute; No more (I.iii.6-10). He also cautions her in no uncertain terms – ‘Fear it, Ophelia, fear it, my dear sister’ – that Hamlet’s affections may change. Laertes believes that ‘his will is not his own.’ Laertes, therefore, is the first character in the play to recognize Hamlet’s indecisive nature and notably, is the first to criticize or oppose Hamlet in any way. Structurally then, Laertes is cleverly presented in clear contrast to the main protagonist of the play. But Laertes is also quite different from Hamlet in behavior and action. Hamlet is crippled by the death of his father and is unable to act. His paralysis is so frustrating for him that he turns near suicidal, wishing that his ‘too too solid flesh would melt.’ Whereas, the death of his father only spurs Laertes into further action. He vows that he shall ‘be reveng’d’ and immediately sets upon taking his revenge upon first, Claudius, and then, Hamlet. He is also successful in killing Hamlet, although not without getting himself killed in the process. It is significant to our argument that Hamlet and Laertes kill each other with the same poisoned sword. It is symbolic of their dependent opposition that one cannot die without killing the other in the process. We see then, that in terms of plot action Laertes is clearly established as Hamlet’s polar opposite: right from the beginnin ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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