Sei sulla pagina 1di 1

Abby Broadhurst

AP Literature
December 6, 2013
Mrs. Flather

CSI: Laertes

In Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet, Laertes’ character is largely meant to act as a foil to Hamlet, thus

aggrandizing the differences in morals and beliefs that are evident between the two throughout the play.

Whereas Hamlet tends towards inactivity, it is clear that Laertes is much more impulsive and is prone to

spontaneous action. When Laertes learns of his father’s death, he immediately returns home from France with

the intent of discovering the cause of Polonius’ death as well as avenging his father if necessary. Returning to

Denmark, Laertes immediately gathers followers who enthusiastically proclaim that “Laertes shall be king”

(4.5.118). Storming the castle, Laertes interrogates Claudius and, after being told to stay calm, states that

“that drop of blood that’s calm proclaims me bastard” (4.5.130-131). At this point, it seems that Hamlet and

Laertes react somewhat similarly to news of their fathers’ deaths as they both sneer at the thought of remaining

calm in such a situation. However, whereas Hamlet’s rage results in many questions and uncertainties,

Laertes’ rage seems to overwhelm all sense of loyalty and morals as he declares, “to hell, allegiance! Vows, to

the blackest devil!” (4.5.149). Laertes’ rash words suggest a willingness to do whatever is necessary and this

haste is further emphasized when he tells Claudius, “you will not o’errule me to a peace” (4.7.68). The extent

of Laertes role as a foil is perhaps most significant in the final scene of Act 4 in which Laertes, having calmed

down, tells Claudius that he will do whatever necessary to kill Hamlet, who he learned is the culprit behind

Polonius’ death. He proclaims that his resolve is so strong that he would even “cut his throat i’ th’ church”

(4.7.144). Already a surprising statement to be made, this quote contrasts directly with Hamlet’s earlier

actions regarding Claudius as Hamlet did not act on his thoughts to kill Claudius in the midst of prayer. It

seems that Hamlet holds himself to higher standards than does Laertes, who has no qualms about killing

Hamlet however convenient. Laertes impulsive behavior and rash thinking highlight a corrupted character as

he is willing to do anything necessary to avenge a murdered father, heedless of any loyalties, ties, and morals

that he may have maintained thus far.