Some would say that Hamlet is the best work of William Shakespeare, and there are many points that prove this to be true. The play is so intricately woven together that there are many connections that can be made. One of the biggest connections is the difference and similarity of the characters Hamlet and Laertes. The first difference between them is the thought expressed by Hamlet and the action taken by Laertes, regarding the revenge of the death of each of their fathers. Next is the similarity of the situations that Hamlet and Laertes are in with their families. Finally, the treatment of Ophelia by both Hamlet and Laertes is also similar. Even though Hamlet and Laertes were enemies they still had things that were common between them.
During the play, Hamlet was a man of much thought and little action, and Laertes was a man of quick action and little thought. When Hamlet first found out about the death of his father, the feelings of hate and revenge were high. An example of this is in this quote, All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past, that youth and observation copied there, and thy commandment all alone shall live within the book and volume of my brain, unmixed with baser matter (1.5.107). Then he does almost nothing about it. After a while he begins to doubt that Cladius has actually killed his father. He calls upon some players to create a play similar to the murder of his father to see the reaction of the King Cladius. He does this to prove to himself that the ghost was not a sign from the devil, also because he is afraid to take action. When he sees that Cladius has actually murdered his father he says, O good Horatio, I ll take the ghost s word for a thousand pound (3.2.312). This is when Hamlet is finally committed to killing Cladius. After this, Hamlet becomes a man of action. He accepts a challenge of a duel with Laertes, then, after they are both fatally wounded, he kills the king. After all this pressure Hamlet has finally begun to take action.
Laertes father s death was very similar to that of Hamlet s. Laertes father was murdered, and at first Laertes just assumed it was the work of the king Claudius. This next quote gives an idea of the attitude of revenge that was felt by Laertes, “To hell, allegiance! Vows, to the blackest devil! Conscience and grace, to the profoundest pit! I dare damnation. To this point I stand, that both the worlds I give to negligence, let come what comes, only I’ll be revenged most thoroughly for my father” (4.5.149). Laertes would have revenge for his father s death at any cost. When Laertes found out it was Hamlet who killed his father, he felt the need to avenge his father s death by killing Hamlet. Unlike Laertes, Hamlet, took action right away and challenged Hamlet to a duel. The duel left both he and Hamlet fatally wounded. Laertes decided to make peace with the killer of his father because he forgave him.
Hamlet however never forgave Claudius and killed him. Which is a little odd considering Hamlet started out without a lot of action and Laertes was ready to kill the assassin of his father anywhere and at anytime. I will cut his throat in church (4.2.84). Hamlet and Laertes both thought very highly of their fathers. Laertes loved and respected his father, Polonius, while Hamlet also had a large amount of respect for his father as well. They wanted to go out in seek of revenge after hearing of the death of their fathers, although, they took two different routes in order to avenge the death s of their fathers.
Hamlet thought about the killing of king Cladius and tried to plan it so that he would be sent straight to hell. Laertes decided that he would kill him anywhere no matter whether they go to heaven or hell. He thought that as long as they were dead he would have his revenge. Both characters had two different ideas of executing their revenge. The characters succeeded in their tasks, but the cost was their lives. Hamlet and Laertes gave their lives to avenge each of their father s deaths. To both of them this was their only goal at the time and they succeeded.
Both of the characters Hamlet and Laertes have many similarities within their families. The fathers of Laertes and Hamlet both used spies to find information on what their sons were doing. Although Claudius is not Hamlet s real father, he is his stepfather. Claudius gained the help of Guildenstern and Rosencrantz in order to find the sanity of his step-son, although Hamlet knew what they had come to do, I know the good king and queen have sent for you (2.2.303). Polonius used Reynaldo to find information on the well being of Laertes. Hamlet and Laertes both had untrusting parents that needed to know what their sons where up to.
Both Hamlet and Laertes were good at dominating some of the female characters in the play. Laertes tells Ophelia about what he thinks about her relationship with Hamlet and Ophelia is expected to follow it. Hamlet also tells his mother Gertrude that he is not mad but to convince the king that he is. He also tells her not to sleep with him anymore, Good night. But go not to my uncle s bed. Assume a virtue if you have it not (3.4.180). Also she is made to feel bad about her actions toward the death of Hamlets father.
To both Hamlet and Laertes Ophelia is a symbol of love. Laertes loves her in that he gives her a lot of advice about her relationship with Hamlet. He talks about his true intentions and how she must be careful. Laertes cares deeply for Ophelia and doesn t want anything bad happen to her or let anyone not think of her as the woman she is. Hamlet’s love for Ophelia is also strong. Although after she begins to reject him Hamlet is deeply saddened. During the play Hamlet slowly begins to fall apart, No hat upon his head, his stocking fouled, ungartered, and down-gyved to his ankle, pale as his shirt, his knees knocking each other (2.1.89). Polonius assumes that Hamlet is mad because he does not have Ophelia s love any longer. When both Laertes and Hamlet know of the death of Ophelia they have two different reactions. Hamlet is angry as well as shocked that she is now dead. Laertes is just in a state of sadness. Both Hamlet and Laertes are so upset at the death of Ophelia that they end up fighting in Ophelia s grave. Although they have many differences this is one of similarities of Hamlet and Laertes. They both have a strong love for Ophelia. Hamlet is overwhelmingly in love with her and Laertes feels a strong brother sister bond in between them.
Hamlet and Laertes were both presented with parallel problems although they each had their own way of dealing with them. Hamlet took the path of thinking and analyzing of the situation then reacting. Laertes looked at the situation very quickly and just acted upon his feelings and his impulses, and in the end he regretted it and this he told to Hamlet. While each headed in different directions they both faced the same end with feelings of forgiveness on the part of Laertes and feelings of hatred toward Claudius by Hamlet.