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Hamlet vs. Laertes: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on February 24, 2024
Hamlet, the protagonist of Shakespeare's play, is introspective and philosophical, struggling with existential questions. Laertes, a secondary character, is impulsive and action-oriented, seeking immediate revenge.

Key Differences

Hamlet is characterized by his deep introspection and philosophical nature, often contemplating life and death. Laertes is more straightforward and action-driven, focusing on avenging his father's death without much introspection.
Hamlet struggles with indecision and moral dilemmas, reflecting on the consequences of his actions. In contrast, Laertes acts impulsively, guided by emotions rather than deep contemplation.
Hamlet’s approach to revenge is methodical, as he seeks proof and contemplates the morality of his actions. Laertes, however, rushes into revenge without seeking validation or considering the broader implications.
Hamlet is haunted by his father’s ghost, driving his quest for truth and justice. Laertes, on the other hand, is motivated by his father Polonius’s murder and his sister Ophelia’s madness and death.
Hamlet often communicates through complex soliloquies, revealing his inner conflicts and thoughts. Laertes is more straightforward in his speech, reflecting his direct and decisive nature.

Comparison Chart


Philosophical, introspective.
Impulsive, action-oriented.

Approach to Revenge

Methodical, contemplative.
Immediate, emotionally driven.


Truth, justice, moral dilemma.
Immediate vengeance for family.


Complex soliloquies, inner thoughts.
Direct, straightforward.

Conflict Resolution

Prolonged internal struggle.
Quick to action and confrontation.

Hamlet and Laertes Definitions


Hamlet is the Prince of Denmark, protagonist of Shakespeare's tragedy.
In the play, Hamlet's conflict revolves around avenging his father's death.


Laertes is the son of Polonius and brother to Ophelia in Shakespeare's Hamlet.
Laertes quickly seeks revenge against Hamlet for his family's downfall.


Hamlet struggles with indecision and the moral implications of revenge.
Hamlet's hesitation to kill Claudius stems from his ethical considerations.


Laertes contrasts Hamlet with his direct approach to conflict.
Unlike Hamlet, Laertes acts swiftly to avenge his father.


Hamlet is a character representing the human condition's complexities.
Hamlet's character explores themes of betrayal, revenge, and mortality.


Laertes is a foil to Hamlet, highlighting Hamlet's indecisiveness.
Laertes’ actions emphasize Hamlet's philosophical approach to similar situations.


Hamlet is known for his introspective nature and philosophical depth.
Hamlet's soliloquies reveal his inner turmoil and existential crises.


Laertes is characterized by his impulsive and passionate nature.
Laertes' immediate reaction to his father's death showcases his impulsiveness.


Hamlet is haunted by the ghost of his father, King Hamlet.
The ghost's appearance profoundly impacts Hamlet's actions throughout the play.


Laertes represents the theme of revenge without contemplation.
Laertes' haste in seeking vengeance leads to tragic consequences.


A small village.


The father of Odysseus.


In New York state, an unincorporated community that is within a town and is not a part of a village.


(Greek mythology) the father of Odysseus


A small village or a group of houses.


(British) A village that does not have its own church.


Any of the fish of the genus Hypoplectrus in the family Serranidae.


A small village; a little cluster of houses in the country.
The country wasted, and the hamlets burned.


A community of people smaller than a village


The hero of William Shakespeare's tragedy who hoped to avenge the murder of his father


A settlement smaller than a town


What drives Laertes in the play?

Laertes is driven by a desire for immediate revenge for his father's murder and sister’s demise.

How do Hamlet and Laertes differ in their approach to revenge?

Hamlet is contemplative and hesitant, while Laertes is impulsive and direct.

What is Laertes' view on morality and ethics?

Laertes focuses less on moral contemplation and more on the immediate action of avenging his family.

What is the central conflict for Hamlet in the play?

Hamlet grapples with avenging his father’s murder while wrestling with moral and existential questions.

What philosophical themes does Hamlet explore?

Hamlet delves into themes of existence, morality, truth, and the human condition.

How does Laertes react to Ophelia’s condition?

Laertes is distraught and angered by Ophelia's madness and subsequent death.

How does Hamlet’s indecision affect the play’s outcome?

Hamlet’s hesitation leads to a series of delayed actions and eventual tragedy.

What is Hamlet’s relationship with Ophelia?

Hamlet has a complex, romantic relationship with Ophelia, marked by tragedy and misunderstanding.

What role does Laertes play in the final act of Hamlet?

Laertes plays a crucial role in the climax, engaging in a fatal duel with Hamlet.

How is Laertes a foil to Hamlet?

Laertes’ decisiveness and action-oriented nature contrast with Hamlet’s philosophical and hesitant demeanor.

What is Laertes’ perspective on family loyalty?

Laertes places a high value on family loyalty and is driven by this in seeking revenge.

What leads to Laertes’ downfall?

Laertes’ impulsive actions and desire for quick revenge ultimately lead to his demise.

How does Shakespeare use Hamlet to explore existential questions?

Through Hamlet, Shakespeare examines life’s meaning, death, and the nature of existence.

How does Hamlet’s intelligence impact his decisions?

Hamlet’s intellectualism causes him to overthink and analyze, leading to delayed actions.

What is the significance of Laertes’ return to Denmark?

Laertes’ return sets the stage for the final confrontation and resolution of the play’s conflicts.

What internal conflicts does Hamlet face?

Hamlet battles with his conscience, fear of the unknown, and the moral implications of revenge.

How do Hamlet and Laertes represent different aspects of human nature?

Hamlet embodies introspection and existential struggle, while Laertes represents impulsiveness and action.

What external conflicts does Laertes face?

Laertes confronts the death of his father and sister and the perceived betrayal by Hamlet.

How does Hamlet’s relationship with his mother affect him?

Hamlet is troubled by his mother’s hasty remarriage and perceives it as a betrayal.

How does Hamlet view death?

Hamlet sees death as a great unknown, pondering its nature and consequences in his soliloquies.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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