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Hamlet’s Choice of Fortinbras as His Successor Essay


Hamlet is one of Shakespeare’s most revered plays since the Elizabethan time. It has managed to garner various literary analysis, criticisms and appreciations. Most literary analysis entails authors’ interpretation of various reasons behind happenings in the play. This argumentative essay aims at arguing out the reasons for Hamlet’s choice of Fortinbras as his successor as Act V Scene II ends.

The contemplative stance taken by Hamlet at various scenes in the play presents us with the idea that there exist reasons for him to name Fortinbras as his successor (Mays and Hunter 50). Hamlet was an intellectual, witty and full of natural tendency of doing right, hence must have had his reasons for choosing Fortinbras as his heir to the throne.

First, the main reason for Hamlet’s selection of Fortinbras as heir to his throne is personal experiences. Hamlet and Fortinbras suffered the same fate when their rightful place as heirs to Denmark and Norwegian thrones respectively were taken away by their uncles (Jackson 127). This makes the two seek revenge, but the methods and dedication to the revenge differs entirely. Fortinbras is extremely dedicated and has to be restrained against fighting Denmark to avenge his father’s death, while Hamlet is reluctant until prompted by the ghost (Prosser 293).

Further, the reason for Hamlet to choose Fortinbras as an heir was because Fortinbras was strong and courageous as he showed in his part as army commander. Hamlet observed that the “delicate and tender prince” (Jackson 126), risks his life “when honor is at stake” (Jackson 126). He is moved by Fortinbras willingness and courage to die for in Act VI Scene 4 line 19-20 as he says “little patch of ground that hath in it no profit but the name” (Jackson 128).

This admiration of his courage could be the reason he bestows his rightful throne to a courageous person who will do whatever it takes to ensure the throne‘s safety. Through Fortinbras, he ensured the throne was in the safest hands, one with courage and honor, than to fall in the hands of unworthy and callous characters as his uncle, Claudius.

Choice of Fortinbras is an act to usurp his place as the rightful king and avenge for the injustice done to Fortinbras, as well as him. He admires Fortinbras’ courage and dedication to his course that it motivates him to seek revenge for his father’s death. He demonstrates this effect when he is informed of the purpose of Fortinbras’ army in Poland by saying “My thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth!” (Jackson 127). He decides to avenge the death of his father as it is a just course and noble than that Fortinbras has in risking, in Poland, hence may have influenced his decision to select him as a successor.

The other reason is because Hamlet believed that by selecting Fortinbras power shall be passed into capable and worthy hands. He admired Fortinbras as demonstrated by his hate of procrastinating avenging his father’s death whereas Fortinbras was restrained from fighting against Denmark in vengeance of his own father’s death (Stuart Club and Tudor 267). Fortinbras is dutiful, respectful to his parents and determined to serve the royal course as demonstrated by his willingness to fight for Norway and readiness to avenge the deaths of his father. This willingness and readiness Hamlet admires and would be the reason for his decision of appointing him to be his successor.

Additionally, the reason could be for Fortinbras to continue with the restoration of the kingdom where he had reached. Selection of Fortinbras acts as a sign of restoration to its fallen state from integrity to corruption cunningness and treachery. The phrase in Act I scene 4 line 90, “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark” (Richardson 173), serves to depict the woeful state of Denmark leadership.

This is also evidenced by Horatio’s request for the coronation of Fortinbras to be quick to avoid other people taking advantage of the chaotic Denmark (Mays et al 203). Another argument for Hamlet’s selection could be because Fortinbras has the capability to lead Denmark to greater prosperity than Claudius. His expertise is demonstrated at the beginning of the play; Act I scene 1line 95, through the phrase “young Fortinbras Of unimproved mettle hot and full” (Richardson 173). He could have envisioned a better person in Fortinbras than the conniving Claudius or any member of the council as an heir to his throne.

Another reason could be an act to reconcile with Fortinbras for the death of his father. Hamlet could be trying to be kind and reconcile with Fortinbras having had gone through the pain of losing a father first hand. This will ensure the same atrocities committed to them shall not happen in the next regime. He seeks to make peace and leave the throne a better one than the Claudius leadership.

In conclusion, the choice made by Hamlet in choosing Fortinbras as his successor is wise. This is due to personal affection to him, personal life of suffering the same fate and aim to safeguard the interest of the nation. Other reasons include reconciliatory effort, ensure a continuation of the throne’s restoration and that he believed that Fortinbras was capable and worthy of holding the throne.

Works cited

Booth, Mays and Paul Hunter. The Norton Introduction to Literature, New York, NY: W.W. Norton, 2005. Print.

Prosser, Eleanor. Hamlet and Revenge, California: Stanford University Press, 1971. Print.

Richardson, David. Revolutionary Theater and the Classical Heritage: Inheritance and Appropriation from Weimar to the GDR, New York, NY: Peter Lang, 2007. Print.

Tudor and Stuart Club (Johns Hopkins University). Journal of literary history, Maryland: Johns Hopkins University Press 15 (1948): 260-273. Print.

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IvyPanda. (2020, November 29). Hamlet’s Choice of Fortinbras as His Successor. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/hamlets-choice-of-fortinbras-as-his-successor/

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"Hamlet’s Choice of Fortinbras as His Successor." IvyPanda, 29 Nov. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/hamlets-choice-of-fortinbras-as-his-successor/.

1. IvyPanda. "Hamlet’s Choice of Fortinbras as His Successor." November 29, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/hamlets-choice-of-fortinbras-as-his-successor/.


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IvyPanda. "Hamlet’s Choice of Fortinbras as His Successor." November 29, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/hamlets-choice-of-fortinbras-as-his-successor/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Hamlet’s Choice of Fortinbras as His Successor." November 29, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/hamlets-choice-of-fortinbras-as-his-successor/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Hamlet’s Choice of Fortinbras as His Successor'. 29 November.

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