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The Tainted Mirror

In Shakespeare’s great tragedy Hamlet, three characters Hamlet, Laertes and Fortinbras, develop as “foils,” or contrasting characters. Several comparisons and contrasts can be shown between the three characters, many of which center around three main topics. Throughout this essay, I will show how Hamlet, Laertes and Fortinbras compare and contrast in terms of avengers and personalities.

To begin with, one of the most obvious examples of Hamlet’s, Laertes’s and Fortinbras’s similarities rests in their roles as avengers. All three of them become angry at first. For Hamlet, he got angry at Claudius right away…“So, uncle, there you are. Now to my word./It is ‘adieu, adieu, remember me.’/I have sworn ‘t.” (Act I, scene v, lines 115-117). It is apparent that Hamlet is ready to seek his revenge on his uncle Claudius. Likewise, Laertes also shows his anger at first, but unlike Hamlet he mobs the castle upon hearing the news of the death of his father. He reveals his anger against Claudius, threatening him. Laertes believes in instant revenge, he is willing to be damned to hell and he doesn’t give if he dies that is how much he is into getting revenge for the death of his father Polonius. He is willing, “to cut [Hamlet’s] throat i' th’ church” (Act IV, scene vii, line 140). While on the other hand Hamlet is so believes his soul is way more valuable than getting instant revenge. For this reason he refuses to kill Claudius while Claudius is near God. Clearly, the only similarity between them is that they are revenging for their father’s death. Fortinbras also seeks revenge in anger; he raises a full army for revenge for his father’s (Old Fortinbras) death. Claudius also watching Fortinbras’s movements, says to the courtiers of Denmark; (Young Fortinbras’s, Holding a weak supposal of our worth, Or thinking by our late dear brother’s death, Our state to be disjoint and out of frame, Co-leagued with this dream of his advantage, He hath not fail’d to pester us with message importing the surrender of those lands lost by his father.) (Act 1.scene2, 17-24). Two important details are revealed in this speech. First, there is the suggestion that Fortinbras knows the state of affairs in Denmark. Secondly, in a moment of hypocrisy, Claudius calls the Prince of Norway a shameless opportunist. These estimations of Fortinbras build a connection between him and Hamlet, making him a foil for the protagonist. Both men have lost their fathers and now seek retribution. A point of difference is their family relations. Unlike Hamlet, Fortinbras has a strong relationship with the rest of his family. Also Hamlet hides his secret for revenge while Fortinbras and Laertes show it.

Finally, Hamlet’s, Laertes’s and Fortinbras’s differences are most evident in their personalities. The single biggest difference between the three of them is that Hamlet is a thinker – over thinker. He only thinks while Laertes and Fortinbras act on the things they think of. Until the very last act of the play, Hamlet is plagued by procrastination. Although he is extremely motivated by the story of his late father’s ghost, Hamlet sits to think about mortality and the usefulness of killing the king. He thinks way too much about when he should kill Claudius, how he should kill him, in what manner. He even decides what to do, but never acts on it. His thinking generally renders him inactive. Hamlet is merciful and unwilling to act if he's not sure it's the right thing (Claudius in confession). Fortinbras will put people at risk for his pride and for revenge (the attack on Poland). Laertes and Fortinbras move quickly and act rashly in their anger, choosing to act first and apologize at the end. Laertes quick action and lack of thought also leads to another contradiction in his and Hamlet’s personalities. Laertes is significantly more obedient then Hamlet. While Laertes listens carefully to both his father’s and Claudius’s words and observes carefully, Hamlet often defies, argues, denies and even goes so far as to manipulate Claudius. Hamlet’s character is much deeper than Laertes. He is more intelligent, which results in Hamlet’s quick wit and sarcasm. Undoubtedly, Hamlet’s and Laertes’s personalities are considerably different. Fortinbras waited until 30 years after his father's death. He waited until his father's killer was already dead. If he had attacked Denmark sooner, Hamlet's father might have challenged him to a personal duel. But Fortinbras was a coward who preferred to send thousands of "commoners" to their graves to fight for his greed. Fortinbras came to Poland and Denmark to steal land. He called it "honor" but it was really cowardice and greed. Fortinbras has a coward personality compared to Hamlet and Laertes.

As illustrated, the characters of Hamlet, Fortinbras and Laertes are developed as foils through Hamlet. The three characters compare and contrast largely in the areas of avengers and personalities. Truly, Shakespeare’s text develops Hamlet, Fortinbras and Laertes into tainted mirror images, highlighting Hamlet’s personality and actions.

Okay so I have done it... Are my references correct in the proper MLA format. And where and how should I reference my SOURCE?? I don't think my essay is in MLA format either. If you see anything wrong can you correct it please...I appreciate your feedback greatly!

  • English....Writeacher checkthis out! -

    I don't see quotation marks around quoted lines from the play. Parentheses and quotation marks are different types of punctuation with different purposes.

    Parentheses = ( ... )
    Quotation marks = " ... "

    I don't see where your have given credit to anyone else whose ideas you have used.

    Only you will be able to determine if you have used MLA format for your paper itself (margins, spacing, etc.) because you'll never be able to duplicate it here.

    Go here to double-check on format and citation form:


    (Broken Link Removed)

  • Do. Not. Plagiarize. -

    You're still plagiarizing. Even your title is plagiarized. =(


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