What is the purpose of Fortinbras in Hamlet?
July 30, 2008 11:42 AM Subscribe
I've never really known what to make of Fortinbras in Hamlet
. Do you know of any good explanations of his purpose in the play?
posted by Kattullus to Media & Arts (16 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I read Eric Rauchway's Blessed Among Nations
and found a reference to the article "Hamlet and Fortinbras
" by William Witherle Lawrence which, according to Rauchway, went a long way towards explaining the problem of Fortinbras. So I went to the local library, dug out the right PMLA volume and read the article. While it traced the origins of the Fortinbras character in previous incarnations of the Hamlet tale it didn't provide a satisfying answer as to what purpose Fortinbras serves in the play. Are there any good articles or books out there about Fortinbras and his role in the play?
My only idea is that it's a reference to James coming from Scotland, England's northern neighbor, to assume the throne of England. The royal line dies out in Hamlet and the same happened in England with the death of Queen Elizabeth. Fortinbras, being from Norway, Denmark's northern neighbor, ascends to the throne of Denmark. It seems to fit in with other such Jacobean ass-kissing in Shakespeare's corpus, e.g. Macbeth.