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Shakespeare’s Hamlet – Laertes

Hamlet’s Laertes

One of the less-discussed characters in the Shakespearean tragedy, Hamlet, is Laertes, the son of Polonius and brother to Ophelia. He witnesses the death of all of his immediate family, thus losing his “honorable” approach to living – until the very end of the drama.

Bernice W. Kliman in “A Television Interpretation of Hamlet” (1964 with Christopher Plummer) highlights the actions of Laertes at the climax of the drama:

Close-ups, of course, reveal that Gertrude offers Hamlet the poisoned wine once she has drunk, that Laertes crosses himself as he takes the fatal rapier, that he gives Hamlet a foul blow after impatient urgings from Claudius, that the soldiers restrain Claudius after Laertes’ revelation. Yet the setting allows enough space around the close-ups for Laertes to make his first admission to Osric alone and for the supernumeraries to disappear while Horatio holds the dying Hamlet, the frame widening out for Fortinbras’ stately entry. (157)

Kliman’s description contains some detail which is not within the official text since her description derives from a television version of Hamlet. Based on the stage version, Marvin Rosenberg describes Laertes in his essay, “Laertes: An Impulsive but Earnest Young Aristocrat”:

Laertes is a dashing, romantic figure who excites striking, spectacular moments in the play. Not much attention has been paid to him by scholar-critics and theatre observers; for all his activity in the later acts, he is not much cursed with inward struggle – while being surrounded by others fascinating for their infernos of inwardness. After Laertes’ brief, bright introduction in I,i and I,iii, he disappears from the play – and Denmark – until he returns at the head of a rebellion in IV,v [. . .]. (87)

With Rosenberg’s overview of Laertes’ situation in the play, let us begin a consideration of his interaction with other members of the cast. Laertes makes his appearance in the drama after Marcellus, Barnardo and Horatio have already seen the Ghost and have trifled with it in an effort to prompt it to communicate with them. Horatio and Marcellus exit the ramparts of Elsinore intending to enlist the aid of Hamlet, who is dejected by the “o’erhasty marriage” to Hamlet I’s wife less than two month’s after the funeral of Hamlet’s father (Gordon 128). After this scene, Laertes is one of many in attendance at a post-coronation social gathering of the court at Elsinore.

The Importance of Claudius’ Guilt in Shakespeare’s Hamlet

The Importance of Claudius’ Guilt in Hamlet

In the first three acts of the play Hamlet, King Claudius go through a subtle, but defined change in character. Claudius role in the play begins as the newly corrinated king of Denmark. The former king, King Hamlet, was poisoned by his brother, Claudius, while he was asleep. Claudius, however, made it known to everyone that the king died of a snakebite in the garden, and thus no one knew of the murder that had just taken place making his murder the perfect crime. The only problem that Claudius must deal with now is his conscience.

After Claudius commits the deed of killing King Hamlet, he almost immediately marries Hamlet’s wife, Queen Gertrude. Claudius also gains a new son, his former nephew Hamlet, the son of King Hamlet. Young Hamlet is very displeased with his mother’s hasty marriage of Claudius and is angered by this incest. Hamlet has a deep attraction for his mother which goes beyond the traditional, mother-son relationship. At this point in the play, Hamlet does not know that Claudius has murdered his father, but he dislikes him anyway. Claudius is not a bad king, which is demonstrated by his handling of the situation between Young Fortinbras and Denmark, but he is not extremely popular with the people and has brought back the obnoxious custom of firing the cannons whenever the king takes a drink. Claudius’ conscience, here is non-existent.

After the ghost of the dead King Hamlet tells Hamlet to avenge his murder, Hamlet has a reason to truly hate Claudius. From this point on in the play, there is definitely friction between the two. When Claudius offers Hamlet the throne after he dies, Hamlet acts apathetic as if the…

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Works Cited and Consulted:

Boklund, Gunnar. “Hamlet.” Essays on Shakespeare. Ed. Gerald Chapman. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1965.

Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. Lectures and Notes on Shakspere and Other English Poets. London : George Bell and Sons, 1904. p. 342-368.

Knight, G. Wilson. “The Embassy of Death.” The Wheel of Fire. London: Methuen and Co.,Ltd., 1954. p. 38-39. N. pag.

Mack, Maynard. “The World of Hamlet.” Yale Review. vol. 41 (1952) p. 502-23. Rpt. in Readings on The Tragedies. Ed. Clarice Swisher. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1996.

Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 1995. No line nos.

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