What I have found interesting thus far in Hamlet is the dynamic between Laertes and Claudius as well as Laertes and Hamlet. In act 4 scene 5, King Claudius is warned by a messenger to, “Save yourself, my lord,” because Laertes has returned from England and is on a rampaging path toward the throne (4.5.94). Claudius asks Laertes why he is acting so rebellious and the only think Laertes can muster up to say is “Where is my father?,” to which Claudius responds “Dead,” and continues to accuse Claudius of killing his father, Polonius, until he finds out that indeed Hamlet was the one who actually killed Polonius (4.5. Laertes 122-123). .
The parallels Shakespeare creates with Laerte’s accusations against Claudius really gives the play a dynamic that I was able to see upon reading the play this time around. Not only is Claudius accused by Hamlet for killing King Hamlet, which we eventually find out is not just an accusation but the truth, but now Laertes is accusing Claudius for the death of his father, Polonius, as well. Unlike King Hamlet, who actually was killed by Claudius, Polonius is killed by Hamlet, and I wonder if through this parallel Shakespeare intended to reveal more of Hamlet’s characters. If Hamlet was able to commit the same deed as Claudius–killing someone’s father–then what makes Hamlet and Claudius that different? Claudius, assumedly, killed King Hamlet in order to selfishly gain the throne, while Hamlet killed Polonius, not knowing it was actually him hiding behind the curtain, due to Polonius “standing” in Hamlet’s way of avenging his father’s death. Maybe through the strange comparison Shakespeare draws between Hamlet and Claudius–that they both killed someone’s father–Shakespeare’s intention was to reveal humanity’s realistic capability of evil, no matter what they have experienced in the past.
Not only does Shakespeare draw a comparison between Claudius and Hamlet, but also draws a parallel between Hamlet and Laertes, who both lost their fathers. While Hamlet was told by his father’s ghost to avenge his death so he can get out of purgatory, Laertes takes it upon himself to avenge his father’s death. Claudius tells Laertes to, “Requite him for your father,” to which Laertes responds, “I will do’t,/ And for that purpose I’ll anoint my sword” (111-113). Although both their fathers were murdered by someone who needed to clear their own path, Hamlet needed to be told by his father’s ghost to avenge his death, while Laertes took it upon himself to, instead of avenge, seek revenge for Polonius’ death.
Hamlet revolves mostly around Hamlet’s deep thoughts and performed madness, which helps us understand his psychological processes, but by paralleling him with both Claudius and Laertes, Shakespeare is revealing to us much more about Hamlet than just through Hamlet’s own personal thoughts and actions. Hamlet is in the same situation these two other men are, a father murderer as well as someone whose father was murdered, and through Claudius and Laertes actions and reactions, we can evaluate Hamlet more thoroughly as a character.