Hamlet is the child of the late King Hamlet. Queen Gertrude is his mother, and she is later married to King Claudius, who is the brother-in-law to Hamlet and who succeeded the Prince of Denmark. The Helmet acts as a protagonist in the play who is presented as a person with instant tempers who takes action without gathering more information about the issue of concern. Helmet strives to take revenge on his father’s killing all over the play. Under a greater zeal, he causes many killings, including King Claudius, Laertes, his mother, Queen Gertrude, and his girlfriend, Ophelia. Even though Hamlet is after taking an act of revenge and he is an unforgiving character, inside him exists a tremendous and intense affection to Ophelia, and she denies Hamlet because, to an extent, he has unsettled wisdom which was given by Ophelia’s brother, Laertes concerning princes like Hamlet. After Ophelia declines his plea, Hamlet turns out to be very violent and continues revenging on his father’s death. Laertes is a personality in Hamlet seen as the youthful man who is very turbulent. His father is Polonius, and he was killed accidentally by Hamlet. Similarities and differences exist between Hamlet and Laertes in this play.
Revenge is a prevalent theme in this play, and Hamlet and Laertes fall under this category. Both of them share a common reason as to why they are revenging. They expressed their feelings and reactions when their fathers were killed. They sought vengeance against these acts on their fathers. Ironically, Hamlet kills Polonius, Laertes’s father, accidentally when the process of revenging the death of his father. “Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder” (Act 1, Scene, line 25) and advise him that “The serpent that did sting /thy father’s life now wears his crown” (Act 1, Scene 5, line 38). The ghost advises Hamlet to seek revenge. Due to his adamant nature, Hamlet speaks to his mother on the issue of revenge on his father’s death. These are expressions belonging to Laertes when he learned about the murder of his father. He immediately responded by coming immediately from France to seek revenge. “Let come what comes; only I’ll be revenged most thoroughly for my father” (Act 4, scene 5, line 128-134).
The characters Hamlet and Laertes display high tempers when they get angry at something. For instance, when Laertes heard that his father had been killed, he instantly reacted by assuming that his father’s killer was Claudius. As a result, he took swift action by taking revenge on Polonius, his murdered father. “To hell, allegiance! Vows, to the blackest devil! Conscience and grace, to the profound pit! / I dare damnation: to this point I stand, that both worlds I give to negligence” (Act 4, scene 5, line 128-134). This displays how furious Laertes was when his father was murdered; hence, he swears to take revenge.
Hamlet and Laertes are in love with Ophelia. Laertes expressed his regard for Hamlet’s fundamental aim to Ophelia and guided her to remain cautious with Hamlet’s affair. This indicates that even Laertes wants to pursue Ophelia since he wants Ophelia to leave Hamlet. In this regard, Laertes excites Ophelia that Hamlet is a King who probably will have plans on marrying her. However, Hamlet’s greater affection for Ophelia went down when she turned down his proposal to her. Hamlet’s substantial affection for Ophelia amounted to significant agony when his love for Ophelia was rejected. Hamlet’s manifestation deteriorated when he was turned down by Ophelia in engaging in relationship affairs with him “Pale as his shirt, his knees knocking each other” (Act 2, Scene 12, line 82). The rejection of Hamlet by Ophelia in love matters caused Polonius to trust that it has made Hamlet draw his attention away and raise his tempers. When Ophelia died, Hamlet and Laertes felt pain since they were eyeing her. They throw themselves in the grave and start fighting “I love Ophelia. Forty thousand brothers/could not with all their quantity of love/Make up my sum” (Act 5, Scene, line 247-249). Although Laertes and Hamlet hated each other, they loved Ophelia.
Hamlet and Laertes have both dead fathers who wish to avenge their death, yet they are so different in their conduct and how each plan to go about his revenge business. Hamlet is more thoughtful and self-contained about his revenge, maybe due to liability because he seems he cannot get it done anyway “I have that within which passeth show/ these but the trappings and the suits of war” (Act 1 Scene II). This scene shows Hamlet’s feelings within himself that outshine what other people can be able to observe from the outside. Nonetheless, Hamlet is constantly thinking about the details of his revenge. He is more willing to take his time to draw plans and strategies that will ensure his avenge mission goes perfectly successfully.
On the other hand, Laertes is much different because he is not self-contained, thoughtful, and willing to reflect on proper strategies to execute his avenge mission. Instead, he wants it to be done anyway “To cut his throat i’th church” (Act 1, Scene V). This is a very revealing quote that shows Laertes’ character, willing and ready to kill someone in a way considered a haven of God. In comparison to Hamlet, he is not ready and willing to kill Claudius when he encounters him praying earlier in the play. Hamlet’s fourth monologue is another crucial change in thinking that portrays Fortinbras’s army as so ready and willing to walk a journey into their ultimate graves over something small compared to a small plot of land. At the same time, he is not capable of carrying his revenge mission, something that he believes he is contented and satisfied with. “When honor’s at stake. How to stand I then, that have a father killed a mother strained/ Excitement of my reason and 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 as bed” (Act 4 Scene 4). These lines show how Hamlet’s and Laertes’ ways of reasoning their act of revenge are based on two entirely different ideas. Laertes instantly proceeds in a full attack mode and instantly develops an idea to engage Hamlet in a dual public challenge. In a contradiction, Hamlet delays arriving only on the note to realize about individuals who are personally willing to sacrifice their lives. Finally, he is willing to give in and comes out to act following his father’s will.
Hamlet, through fiction, proposes his love to Ophelia and turns her to feel and fall in love with him based on pure love and feelings. At the same time, Laertes demonstrates genuine love and fiction for Ophelia, his sister, as he truthfully seeks and looks forward to the best for her. The revealing of this act is involved when he advises and warns her to turn down Hamlet’s proposal. “But good my brother, do not, as some ungracious pastors do/ show me the steep and thorny way to heaven. While, like a puffed and reckless libertine/ himself the primrose path of dalliance treads and recks not his own rede” (Act 1, scene III). Another difference is seen when Hamlet apologizes publicly for everything he has done to Laertes. However, cunning Laertes vainly accepts the apologies but still sticks to take revenge by killing Hamlet.
At the beginning of the dual, Laertes is struck by Hamlet. Hamlet turns down the offer to drink from the poisoned courier cup, claiming to engage in another next play before accepting the offer. Hamlet hits Laertes again, and Gertrude rises to drink from the king’s cup. The king instructs not to drink from the cup; she willingly does drink from it. In a murmur, Claudius remarks, “It is the poisoned cup: It is too late” (Act V, Scene II). Laertes remarks that wounding Hamlet with the poisoned sword is almost against his moral sense. The queen falls after drinking from the poisoned cup. Laertes, inflicted through his strategies, claims, “I am justly kill’d by my own treachery” (Act V, Scene II). Hamlet says that he is dying. And in the process, he exchanges last forgiving words with Laertes. Later, after absolving with Hamlet, Laertes bids bye and dies.
Taylor, Gary. “Shakespeare’s Early Gothic Hamlet.” Critical Survey (Oxford, England), vol. 31, no. 1-2, Berghahn Journals, 2019, pp. 4–25, https://doi.org/10.3167/cs.2019.31010202.