Compare and contrast the approaches of Hamlet and Laertes to revenge
“… By the image of my cause, I see / The portraiture of his. ” Compare and contrast the approaches of Hamlet and Laertes to revenge. Hamlet is the son of the late king Hamlet and is grieving over his father’s unexpected death. Both Laertes and Hamlet are avengers, avenging their fathers’ murders. He also has to contend with the fact that his mother, the queen, Gertrude, re-marries rather quickly to the new king Claudius (the late king Hamlet’s brother).
Hamlet also wishes to return to university perhaps to deal with the incidents of late and to return to some sort of normality.
This is somewhat ignored by the Claudius’s need to keep a fixed eye of him. As the play continues you learn that the late king Hamlet was actually murdered and it is Hamlet’s duty to seek revenge and resolve the situation. This he deals with badly, by continuously battling with his conscience as to whether or not he can do it and if it is acceptable to seek such revenge.
Laertes is the Lord Chamberlain’s son and also the brother of Hamlet’s true love.
His request to return to France is granted and he is away until he hears of the tragedies that occur within his family, namely the death of his father Polonius and the insanity of his sister, Ophelia. Initially characters, Hamlet and Laertes appear to be completely different from one another. It is not until you make a comparison between Hamlet and Laertes that it becomes apparent that there are a number of similarities as well as differences. Hamlet and Laertes are both honourable and noble men and come from very good families; Hamlet is royalty and Laertes is the Lord Chamberlain’s son.
The part in the play, which shows true repentance from Laertes, is when he speaks out to Hamlet at the end. He tells him of his foul play, that his mother has been poisoned, that the blade is poisoned too and that it is the king to blame. Laertes also seeks forgiveness from Hamlet for his part of the evil that has spread. This proves that he is deeply an honest man and not one of evil. Hamlet, also of the same nature, exchanges forgiveness. This is a major indication, on Hamlet’s behalf that he is to an honourable man. “Exchange forgiveness with me, noble Hamlet.
” (Laertes Act v Scene ii) “Heaven make thee free of it! I follow thee. ” (Hamlet Act v Scene ii) Both Hamlet and Laertes love Ophelia and are devastated by her death. Also their reactions to certain events are also alike. Initially when Hamlet learns that his father was murdered he shouts out in temper and portrays an angry man ready to seek revenge. However, this gets waylaid by Hamlet dwelling on the truth as opposed to acting on it, whereas Laertes has the same initial reaction but with the intent to seek revenge instantly, with prompting by Claudius.
Hamlet’s only prompting is by the ghost, and in one instant acts on impulse. This act of impulse occurs in the Queen’s closet when she and Hamlet are arguing and Hamlet kill’s who ever it is hiding behind the arras. This is most certainly not a natural reaction by Hamlet. “A sword unbated, and, in a pass of practice, /Requite him for your father. ” (Claudius speaking with Laertes privately Act v Scene ii) Another similarity is when the two characters commit themselves to whatever lies ahead, namely a destiny as a result or consequence of their actions.
However, a main difference is the fact that this is an almost instant reaction for Laertes but one which Hamlet commits to in Act I scene v but there is a delay and he does not seem to be ‘ready’ until Act IV scene ii. “Let come what comes” (Laertes Act iv Scene v) “mine is ready, now or whensoever” (Hamlet Act v Scene ii) However as many similarities as there are, the contrasts are more noticeable and at first glance are clearer and easier to perceive. Some would think Hamlet to be the cowardly avenger, this I feel portrays Laertes to be a more courageous character.
Hamlet deliberately attempts to delay the revenge he seeks for his father’s death. He accuses himself of “bestial oblivion” and “over-speculation”. He seems to be less focused than Laertes and on occasion battles with his conscience. “To be, or not to be – that is the question” (Hamlet Act iii Scene I). Laertes on the other hand is very direct, consistent, and almost the single-minded avenger. He doesn’t seem to struggle with his conscience and is more than willing to accept the consequences of his actions. Laertes even states in act iv scene v “I dare damnation.
To this point I stand, That both the worlds I give to negligence”. He really does not care what will happen to him providing his revenge for his father’s death is sort. This play was set in Elizabethan times, an era where attitudes were mixed and ambivalent towards revenge. This helps to truly appreciate this bold behaviour from Laertes. Revenge in these times was known to be against the church and condemned by God. Which in others words meant you would not meet with God after death and would have to deal with the devil damnation.
However these attitudes were far more complex and did actually depend more on the circumstances as opposed to a ‘black and white’ theory. In Hamlet’s fifth soliloquy, he reflects on the repercussions of revenge, which is perhaps one reason for his constant dwelling and hesitation on the task of killing Claudius. Laertes does not in the slightest entertain these views. “When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, /must give us pause. There’s the respect/ That makes calamity of so long life. ” (Hamlet Act iii Scene I).
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