No two individuals are alike, regardless of similar upbringing. It is reasonable to assume that even twins brought up in exactly the same environment, sharing the same daily activities, and living practically the same life, will act differently when faced with the same situation. Each individual evolves with his or her own uniqueness, style, and way of life. The audience witnesses this phenomenon in Shakespeare's Hamlet. Lord Hamlet and Laertes experienced similar childhoods, and shared similar family attributes. They were both born into royalty and throughout their lives were treated as such. Hamlet and Laertes were reared with the same forms of schooling, and were taught to abide by the same ethics and morals. Although Hamlet and Laertes seem to be "twined" with regard to family, royalty, and school, it is evident to the audience how such environmentally similar people can react so differently when faced with comparable situations. One such example arises when Hamlet and Laertes are consumed by a very basic human characteristic, that of revenge.
Hamlet and Laertes, although very similar in most respects, differ in that Laertes is driven by passion and Hamlet is driven by reason.
Shakespeare exposes to his audience the similarities between Hamlet and Laertes in various instances throughout the play. It is known to the reader that Hamlet and Laertes are both sons of royalty, Hamlet being the son of the former true king of Denmark, King Hamlet, and Laertes being the son of the trusted counselor to the king, Polonius. The reader is able to deduce from the manner of both families, that although they differ, they live very similar lives, and their sons Hamlet and Laertes are quite alike. For example, Hamlet and Laertes have a unique similar respect for their fathers. In one instance, in Hamlet's first...
by Orr Klein (Circle 7)
One of the aspects of the fourth act that I really enjoyed reading was the contrast between Laertes and Prince Hamlet. They both have dead fathers that they wish to avenge yet they are so different in their demeanor, and how they want to go about their business. Hamlet is more introspective and thoughtful about his revenge, maybe to a fault because he can’t seem to actually get it done, but nonetheless is constantly thinking about the details of the revenge, and is willing to take his time to make sure it goes off perfectly. His thought process reveals a more human aspect of revenge, calling into question whether or not it is useful to act upon these acts of revenge. Laertes, on the other hand, is different because he is not as introspective and willing to reflect, he just wants to get it done. For example, there is a moment in Act IV where Claudius asks Laertes what he would do to show that he was really his father’s son and said “To cut his throat i’th’ church” (IV.vii. 98). This is a very revealing quote about Laertes’s character, willing to kill someone in what is considered a safe haven of God. Compare this to Hamlet, who is unwilling to kill Claudius when he sees him praying earlier on in the play. I feel like that’s what makes Hamlet’s revenge so appealing to readers, being able to delay and contemplate his actions make it different than any other revenge tragedy we’ve read so far.
Hamlet’s fourth soliloquy is an important change in thought process that shows how the army of Fortinbras is so willing to walk into their graves over something as insignificant as a small plot of land while he’s not able to carry out his revenge, which is something that he believes is justified.
When honor’s at the stake. How stand I, then,
That have a father killed, a mother stained,
Excitements of my reason and my blood,
And let all sleep, while, to my shame, I see
The imminent death of twenty thousand men
That, for a fantasy and trick of fame
Go to their graves like beds
I think it’s pretty interesting to see how Hamlet’s and Laertes’s way of reasoning their acts of revenge are based on two different ideas entirely. Laertes instantly goes in full attack mode and immediately comes up with a plan to take down Hamlet in a duel. Hamlet, on the other hand, takes a lot longer to come around, only after he realizes that there are people out there that are willing to die for a lot less, he’s willing to finally go and act on what his father wanted him to do. After reading this play, I feel as if Hamlet is one of the most humane characters to come out of the plays we’ve read so far. I think most people would feel very similarly in Hamlet’s situation and his delay and contemplation shows that there is some source humanity applied to this messed up situation.