Similarities to Hamlet

Like Hamlet:

  • Fortinbras is the son of a king who has been killed — in the case of the King of Norway, killed by Old Hamlet, in a duel
  • The throne left vacant by the death of his father has been taken by his uncle
  • Fortinbras wishes to take action to right his perceived wrongs.

A different direction

However, the similarity stops there: Fortinbras, whose name means ‘strong in arm', chooses military action, marching against Denmark to take back the lands lost by his father. If we see this as a form of vengeance, then we must also note that Fortinbras is persuaded against it — in any case his father was killed in an honourable fight, not by poison and deceit — and that he decides instead to use his army in another campaign.

Hamlet is well aware of the difference between himself and Fortinbras, as he shows when he compares his own hesitation with Fortinbras' actions, in Act IV scene iv; they have both been brought up carefully and sensitively as princes, but Fortinbras is prepared to risk his life in battle: 

‘Witness this army of such mass and charge,
Led by a delicate and tender prince,
Whose spirit, with divine ambition puff'd,
Makes mouths at the invisible event,
Exposing what is mortal and unsure
To all that fortune, death and danger dare.'
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