Laertes and Hamlet: a Son’s Revenge

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Anika Engbersen Mr. Judah Honors Junior English 15 June 2012 Laertes and Hamlet: A Son’s Revenge Laertes, Ophelia’s older brother and Polonius’s son in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, is a passionate young man who cares deeply about his family. When both his younger sister and father die, readers can recognize his feelings of grief and anger, and can understand his behavior. Hamlet too loses a father, but his reactions to the demise of his father and the way he peruses his revenge is so irrational, it makes it harder for the readers to connect to Hamlet’s loss than Laertes’s. Hamlet and Laertes share as many similarities as they do differences. Hamlet even goes to say “But I am very sorry…that to Laertes I forgot myself; for by the image of my cause I seethe portraiture of his” (5.2.75). At first glance they seem very much in contrast, mainly in personality. Hamlet is a thinker, and Laertes is more a man of action. Yet both are close in age, attend college abroad, emotionally attached to Ophelia, and see themselves bound either by family or morality to revenge the deaths of their fathers. “The similarities seem drawn, however, mainly to highlight the eventual differences between the two male heirs’ responses” (Drewry 26). The contrasting means of revenge is what sets Hamlet and Laertes the most apart, and is what the reader judges their character by. When Hamlet learns from his father’s ghost that he was murdered by his Uncle, Hamlet swears to him “with wings as swift…May sweep to my revenge” (1.5.7), promising his father a quick and speedy revenge. However, he spends most of the play brooding about killing Claudius and chastising himself for not taking action: “O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I!” (2.2.58). And even after he renews his resolve to avenge his father, instead going over to Claudius and killing him right away, Hamlet goes off and puts on a

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