“Now, sir, young Fortinbras,
Of unimproved metal, hot and full,
Hath in the skirts of Norway, here and there
Shark’d up a list of lawless resolutes,
For food and diet, to some enterprise
That hath a stomach in’t: which is no other-
And it doth well appear unto our state-
But to recover of us, by strong hand
And terms compulsatory, those ‘foresaid lands
So by his father lost.” -Horatio (Shakespeare I.i.95-104)
1) The reader learns a lot about Young Fortinbras in this passage told by Horatio. It discusses one of the major themes of the play (revenge) and it also presents a foil for Hamlet. Fortinbras wants to avenge the death of his father by creating an army that could overrun that of the Danish. In this quote, we learn that Fortinbras is a young, passionate man that will stop at nothing to get revenge on those who killed his father. The quote is significant because it gives the reader the first concept of someone seeking revenge in the play. Fortinbras is quick and takes action to get what he wants. His personality is opposite to Hamlet’s who thinks about what he wants to do too much, without ever getting to it. In the end of the play, it’s Fortinbras’s speedy actions as opposed to Hamlet’s continual thinking that allows him to get what he wants in the end without really having to do anything.
“O, from this time forth, / My thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth!”
-Hamlet (Shakespeare IV.iv. 64-65)
2) This is a turning point for Hamlet who, until this moment, hasn’t acted upon his goal to kill the King. When he learns that Fortinbras has gathered an army to gain an unimportant, small piece of land, Hamlet feels ashamed that the Prince of Norway has taken such extreme actions for his own honour. Hamlet, at this point, realizes that he will get his revenge by murdering his uncle. The statement is a contradiction at the same time, since it’s his thoughts that force him to cower from acting. He’s determined to think about nothing but getting his vengeance somehow. It’s interesting that at this point, he resolves to think about nothing but blood. It seems that he’s going to be quick and steadfast in his actions, much like Fortinbras and Laertes. If you only think about what you want instead of acting upon it, you’ll never get it.
“I dare damnation: to this point I stand, / That both the worlds I give to negligence, / Let come what comes; only I’ll be revenged / Most thoroughly for my father.”
-Laertes (Shakespeare IV.v. 131-134)
3) We see a huge change in Laertes’s character compared to the one we knew in Act 1. His anger and depression over the death of his father has lead him to act foolishly. He doesn’t care about anything but avenging his dead father (and later on, sister) and doing anything to get revenge on Hamlet. Laertes acts on impulse, much like Fortinbras. This quote marks an important part of the play because it leads Claudius to make the plan with him to kill Hamlet. In the end, nothing works out well for anybody. I like this quote because it shows that Laertes isn’t really the meek and quiet person that he seemed to be at the beginning of the play. He will do anything for his family. At this point in the play, the reader pities Laertes for the loss of not only his father, but his sister as well. By the end, you kind of want him to come out as the winner.