Hamlet: Is justice served?
The conclusion of Hamlet sees both Hamlet and Laertes seeking to right wrongs committed against them or their families. It is significant that, with Polonius’ death, both figures have lost their fathers. However, Laertes seems unconcerned with moral justice, stating plainly his desire for revenge: “I am satisfied in nature,/ Whose motive in this case should stir me most/ To my revenge” (Act V, scene ii, 3882-3885). Discerning Hamlet’s motives is more difficult.
In examining the question of whether justice is served at the end of the play, you might want to consider why Hamlet decides to fight Laertes. It could be helpful to look at the following speeches, although you certainly should not restrict yourselves to them:
1. Hamlet tells Horatio of King Claudius’ plot to have him killed overseas. Hamlet switches the letters, causing Guildenstern and Rosencrantz to be executed instead. In response, Horatio states: “Why, what a king is this!” (Act V, scene ii, 3716). Hamlet condemns King Claudius (Act V, scene ii, 3716-37).2. Hamlet regrets his fight with Laertes at Ophelia’s grave and equates their causes: (Act V, scene ii, 3727-3735).3. Horatio asks Hamlet not to fight Laertes, emphasizing that Hamlet cannot win: “You will loose this wager my lord” (Act V, scene ii, 3845-3847).
Your paper should be between 600-800 words or 2-3 pages on whether or not moral justice is served in the play.