Q ) How does Hamlet compare and contrast with Horatio, Fortinbras, Claudius, and Laertes?
A ) Horatio’s steadfastness and loyalty contrasts with Hamlet’s variability and excitability, though both share a love of learning, reason, and thought. Claudius’s willingness to disregard all moral law and act decisively to fulfill his appetites and lust for power contrasts powerfully with Hamlet’s concern for morality and indecisive inability to act. Fortinbras’s willingness to go to great lengths to avenge his father’s death, even to the point of waging war, contrasts sharply with Hamlet’s inactivity, even though both of them are concerned with avenging their fathers. Laertes’ single-minded, furious desire to avenge Polonius stands in stark opposition to Hamlet’s inactivity with regard to his own father’s death. Finally, Hamlet, Laertes, and Fortinbras are all in a position to seek revenge for the murders of their fathers, and their situations are deeply intertwined.
1. What reasons do Laertes and Polonius give for their command to Ophelia to stop seeing Hamlet? Are they reasonable?
Laertes wants her to stop because Hamlet is a prince who 'may not carve for himself': Ophelia is too far beneath Hamlet, socially, for their relationship to have any hope of surviving. Hamlet is bound to end up in a political marriage to the Princess of Poland or somewhere.
One possible mistake is to believe that Laertes really believes that Hamlet is dallying with her affections following his first speech. Laertes wants her to persuade herself that this is the case in order to make it easier for her to drop the prince: 'Think it no more' (my emphasis).