Essay, Research Paper: Hamlet And Fortinbras

Shakespeare: Hamlet

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Oftentimes, the minor characters in a play can be vital and, among other things,
function to further the action of the play or to reveal and illuminate the
personalities of other characters. In Hamlet, Fortinbras, the Norwegian Prince,
serves as the most important foil of Hamlet and provides us with the actions and
emotions in which we can compare to those of Hamlet and better reveal Hamlet’s
own character. Because Hamlet and Fortinbras both lost their fathers and have
sworn to avenge their deaths, Fortinbras is a perfect parallel of Hamlet. He was
also very crucial to the play’s ending and to bring a remedy to the corruption
that has plagued Denmark. Fortinbras father, King of Norway, was killed during
battle for control of “a little patch of ground”(4.4, 19). Fortinbras’
uncle claims the throne of Norway just as Hamlet’s uncle takes the throne at
Denmark. The deaths of Hamlet Sr. and Fortinbras Sr. directly link the common
destiny of Fortinbras to that of Hamlet, to avenge the death of his father. It
is because of this that the two young soldiers can be compared to each other.
Fortinbras’ taking action after his reasoning is contrasting to Hamlet’s
continual lackadaisical steps towards revenge. Hamlet realizes this and
comtrasts himself to Fortinbras in his “How stand I then”(4.4, 59) speech
and labels Fortinbras as a man of action and labels himself as a procrastinator
whose words lead to no action. Hamlet calls him “a tender prince”(4.4, 51)
after speaking with a captain in his army and hearing of Fortinbras’ progress.
It is inspiring to Hamlet and it pushes him forward in carrying out his plan to
kill Claudius. Hamlet’s last lines, “How all occasions…my thoughts be
bloody or be nothing worth!”(4.5, 34-69) say that Fortinbras has won him over
from any further doubts and Hamlet, too, wishes to become a man of action who is
ready to take his revenge at any cost. It can be said that Fortinbras is an
energetic leader and soldier with clear intentions from the way he can quickly
assemble his men to attack Poland. Although Fortinbras says that Hamlet was a
soldier, too, “and for his passage, the soldier’s music…”(5.2, 444-445),
the reader sees Hamlet only as a scholar because he seems to only think things
out rather than take action. Though, Fortinbras’ statement helps us understand
that Hamlet was once indeed a good soldier. Scene two of the last act of Hamlet
reveals the true character of Fortinbras. After arriving at Elsinore, he
immediately acts upon seeing the disturbing scene, much like he acts in battle,
“Let four captains bear Hamlet like a soldier…”(5.2, 441-450). Fortinbras
is necessary to the storyline and he is important to the resolution of the
corruption in Elsinore Castle, “Something rotten in Demark”(1.5, 100). He is
needed to correct the corruptness, as he is the only noble left to claim the
throne, the task he had ironically set out for, and because he desires to fight
for glory and to expand his empire, he is fitted by character to inherit the
Kingdom of Sr. Hamlet. This action completes the play and brings all loose ends
together.

Bibliography
Bibliography Mowat, Barbara A. Hamlet. Washington Square Press of Pocket Books.
New York, NY: 1992.
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