Hamlet and Fortinbras: The Question of Nobility through Parallel Plots College

William Shakespeare’s Hamlet ends in a dramatic cataclysm as four crucial characters drop dead in a murderous scandal of “deaths put on by cunning and forced cause” (5.2.369-371). It is in this skirmish that Hamlet achieves his long-sought revenge of murdering his uncle, Claudius, King of Denmark. However, this seeming success of avenging his father’s murder does not appear to benefit Hamlet; instead he falls upon the ground dead, just as Denmark falls from its once noble position of power. But the play does not end on a note of despair and defeat; rather it concludes with an air of triumph as young Prince Fortinbras marches in to become the next king. Even though Fortinbras has only six lines, his role as the resolution to the play is impossible to ignore. Fortinbras’s lurking presence mostly off-stage—really a parallel play—becomes of primary importance to interpreting the work. Despite his minimal presence, Fortinbras, as a prince living in a world concurrent to Hamlet’s, serves as a window through which we can understand the question of nobility. Namely, Fortinbras demonstrates how resolute action aligns with ideals of nobility within the institution of the court, while Hamlet demonstrates how a fixation on reason and his...

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