Hamlet and Laertes are characters that William Shakespeare used in his play entitled Hamlet. The setting of this play is in Denmark. The main characters in the play include Claudius (king of Denmark), Hamlet (also known as prince Hamlet and the son of the deceased king Hamlet and Queen Gertrude), Gertrude (queen of Denmark), Polonius (Lord Chamberlain), and Laertes (Polonius’ son).
The other characters who also contribute to the plot of this play include Ophelia, Horatio, Voltimand, among others. The protagonist of this tragedy is prince Hamlet. Both Hamlet and Laertes are angry with the murderers of their fathers and are determined to revenge.
Shakespeare’s work brings out the theme of revenge. Both Hamlet and Laertes are determined to revenge for their fathers’ killing (Schulman, para.3). They act out of anger and rage and are determined to find satisfaction and peace of mind through revenge.
Even if they both seek revenge, they have different characteristics and convictions that make them differ in the way they treat the issue. One night, outside the Elsinore Castle in Denmark, the guards spotted the ghost of the deceased old King Hamlet and they informed prince Hamlet about its whereabouts.
Thereafter, the prince makes a decision to go and see the ghost himself. The ghost reveals himself as the spirit of king Hamlet (Bloom, Pg. 16). King Hamlet’s ghost then informs prince Hamlet of the person who killed him; consequently, Hamlet accepts the ghost’s demands, swears his accomplices to secrecy and reveals to them his intention of killing the king to avenge his father’s murder.
The ghost revealed that King Claudius of Denmark had murdered his brother King Hamlet secretly, inherited his throne as king, and married his queen Gertrude (Shakespeare, Act 5, Scene 2, pg 3, line 68-69).The thought that someone killed his father makes Hamlet to harbor the spirit of revenge.
Shakespeare used the character of Hamlet to show that the effects of revenge may lead to disastrous results and some of them may be unintended. This is shown by the fact that Hamlet wanted to execute the revenge plan regardless of its consequences.
Foremost, he decides to prove whether his uncle Claudius is guilty of the offence and pretend to be insane. Armed with prove (Act 3, Scene 2), Hamlet goes to kill Claudius but gets him praying and stops because he believes that killing him while he is praying will send his soul directly to heaven.
He then leaves to confront his mother in her bedchamber where Polonius is hiding. Taking note of some movements from behind the tapestry, Hamlet thinks it is the king concealing himself there and thrusts his sword through the fabric killing Polonius instantly, and because of this murder, Claudius becomes afraid of Hamlet and sends Him to England where he plans for his murder. Here, the hatred of Claudius is also revealed.
However, Hamlet succeeds to come back. Laertes, Polonius’s son, who has just returned from France rages because of his father’s murder and demands for justice. The king tells him that Hamlet killed his father and the two combine efforts to kill Hamlet. In the end, the three of them die.
Hamlet agrees with the request of his father’s ghost to avenge his death but he does not execute Claudius immediately. He takes time to prove whether his uncle Claudius is guilty of the offence. He also blames Laertes for being the king’s accomplice in crime during his father’s reign.
However, Hamlet did not kill him. Hamlet is slow to act even when he has enough evidence that his uncle killed his father. His procrastination causes his downfall because he is killed at the end. Hamlet decided to kill Claudius only when he realizes that he is about to die and it is his only chance to revenge for his father’s murder.
Laertes on the other hand acts with rage when he hears that his father is dead. He organizes an army and comes to Denmark threatening to overthrow the king if he does not produce his father or his killer.
When Claudius tells Laertes that Hamlet killed his father, he is in a rush to revenge by killing Hamlet. This is what makes him to organize for a fencing match with Hamlet in order to set a chance of killing him. His hurry to execute his revenge mission without contemplating on the king’s motives leads to his downfall because Hamlet kills him during the match.
From this play, it is clear that both Hamlet and Laertes are seeking to revenge on each other for their fathers’ deaths. Hamlet knows that Laertes was a major partner to King Claudius in crime during the reign of king Hamlet. In anger, he also seeks to kill Claudius an issue that makes him to kill Polonius by mistake. Laertes on the other hand is aware that Hamlet killed his father by mistake and out of anger. Nonetheless, he still blames him for not only killing his father, but also holds him responsible for his sister’s death.
Even though Hamlet and Laertes are justified to avenge their fathers’ deaths, their reactions are not right. At first, Hamlet seeks to get evidence that his uncle killed his father.
This seems to be a wise step for him to take but then he takes too long to establish the truth. After getting the truth, Hamlet still engages in unnecessary procrastinations in order to find specific evidence, which is not necessary. He also does this due to some philosophical and moral convictions, which at the end lead him to damnation. Laertes on the other hand is filled with rage and acts out of his anger rather than out of reason.
His reason for wanting to kill Hamlet is that he killed his father. In addition, he wanted to do this because Hamlet had a love relationship with his sister. He feels that he must revenge for his father’s death in order for him to have peace and to keep his reputation untainted (“Hamlet’s revenge,” para. 1). His hurry in doing things also leads him to damnation just like Hamlet.
In conclusion, some of the themes presented in William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet are revenge, rejected love and madness. The murder of the fathers of Prince Hamlet and Laertes grieve them and they set out to revenge. King Hamlet’s death makes Hamlet to get out of school and come back to Denmark to mourn his father’s death.
The marriage between his mother and king Claudius disturbs him. In one night, the ghost of Hamlet’s father walks to Elsinore and reveals to hamlet that Claudius is the one who killed him. Out of the ghost’s demand, Hamlet sets out to revenge but he is held back by his beliefs and convictions. His anger makes him to kill Polonius, Laertes’ father, who in turn seeks revenge.
Hamlets’ love towards Ophelia, Laertes’ sister creates more hatred between Hamlet and Laertes. Hamlet’s philosophical beliefs make him to doubt his course of action and lead him to delay in his revenge. Laertes is in hurry to revenge and maintain his reputation their behavior puts them in problems and they both die. This gives a message that people ought to act out of reason and in due time.
Bloom, Harold. Shakespeare’s Tragedies. Broomall, PA.: Chelsea House publishers, 2000. Print.
“Hamlet’s revenge.” Greenspun.com. Greenspun, January 11, 2003. Web. December 3, 2010. http://www.greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg.tcl?msg_id=00APLj
Schulman, Arlene. “Shakespeare – Hamlet vs Laertes.” AllExperts. About, Inc., 2 March 2007. Web. December 3, 2010. http://en.allexperts.com/q/Shakespeare-3004/Hamlet-vs-Laertes-1.htm
Shakespeare, William. Hamlet: a tragedy. London: W. Oxberry and Co. Printers, 1818. Print.