Laertes was dispatched to France, but after his father’s death, he returns in Act 4 to resolve his conflict. Although he appears only towards the end of the act, his role is vital to the plot. His intention to avenge his father’s death, caused by Hamlet in his revenge-driven state, is central to the story. Laertes cares deeply for his family, as shown when he offers “worldly, experienced caution” to protect his sister’s honor, adding a layer of irony to Hamlet’s predicament. Like Hamlet, Laertes seeks revenge, but he is much more passionate about it. Laertes believes that failing to avenge his father would render him unworthy of being his son, reducing his mother to a harlot and himself to a bastard. Revenge is, to him, a noble obligation to his father. Laertes’ fervent quest for revenge casts Hamlet’s hesitant and indecisive behavior in a weaker light. Laertes and Hamlet differ in their views on honor, with Laertes seeing family honor as essential, but being indifferent towards religious or moral honor.
Laertes’ role in the story allows Shakespeare to create dramatic tension by bringing Hamlet back into the picture. Since Claudius failed to kill Hamlet, Laertes arrives to seal his fate, adding twists and turns to the story and keeping the audience engaged. Shakespeare also uses Laertes as a character who is capable of killing the prince, in contrast to Hamlet, who “suffers keenly from his task” due to his sensitive and moral nature. Laertes, however, is single-minded in his pursuit of revenge and lacks any psychological barriers to completing it.
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