Hamlet by William Shakespeare

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It is to Horatio that he returns in Act Five with his new equanimity of mind. It seems appropriate that Horatio is the only major character to survive at the end of the play.

LAERTES. Laertes’ importance derives from the fact that his situation comes to parallel Hamlet’s as can be seen from his family tree:

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Studying in Paris at the time of Claudius’ accession, Laertes returns to Denmark and is then immediately granted permission to return to France again – unlike Hamlet. He seems to be leading a mildly licentious life away from home. After hearing of Polonius’ murder, he returns to Denmark and raises a mob with which he confronts Claudius, witnesses his sister’s madness and later learns of her suicide. Mad for revenge as Laertes is, Claudius is able to manipulate him into taking part in the plot against Hamlet, his father’s killer.

FORTINBRAS. The meaning of his name – ‘strong in arm’ – sums up this minor character, whose situation also parallels Hamlet’s, as another family tree illustrates:
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Old Fortinbras was killed in single combat by Old King Hamlet on the day Young Hamlet was born. This led to the forfeiture of some Norwegian lands to Denmark, and Old Fortinbras’ brother (known simply as ‘Norway’ in the play) was crowned king (a parallel with Claudius). At the beginning of the play, Norway is bedridden, and Fortinbras, acting on his own initiative, is collecting a force of adventurers together to revenge his father by regaining the lands lost to Old Hamlet. It is notable that this is simply a political and military act of ‘revenge’. Claudius is able to use diplomatic pressure on Norway to achieve a compromise, whereby Fortinbras’ army is sent against Poland to fight over a worthless piece of land (which, nonetheless, will bring some prestige to the young prince). Claudius agrees to give Fortinbras free passage through Denmark on the way.

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William Shakespeare