Shakespeare’s characterization of Hamlet and Fortinbras structures an antithetical relationship which reinforces the recurring concept of action vs. inaction. Through Hamlet’s foil, observations regarding the implication of superior character attributes can be made. These traits and values- particularly familial loyalty, prestige, conviction- define the idealized paragon (Fortinbras) that prioritizes action over abortive deliberation. The disimilarities between Hamlet and Fortinbras are made fundamentally more significant when considering the comparability of their individual circumstances. Old King Hamlet’s demise, brought about by his own brother, effectively renders young Hamlet’s legislative right to the throne null. Correspondingly, Fortinbras, whose father is murdered by Old King Hamlet, is left unjustly bereft of the entitlement to rule. Although the two eventually seek retribution for the deaths of their fathers, their contrasting fundamental values send them in vastly opposing directions. Fortinbras, unlike Hamlet, possesses a strong relationship with the rest of his family and understands his own authority and the authority of those above him. He intended to reclaim the land taken by Old King Hamlet with immediacy, but his loyalty to forces greater than his own (his uncle) impeded him. Claudius utilizes this to temporarily pacify any hasty agressions. Voltemand:On Fortinbras, which he, in brief, obeysReceives rebuke from Norway, and in fine,Makes vow before his uncle never moreTo give th’ assay of arms against your Majesty. (II.iii.72-75).Fortinbras’s faithfulness to the man that essentially robbed him of the throne is indicative of the importance of reputation, position, and notability. It is crucial to recognize this circumstance not as an instance of inaction, but as an obstruction of rash and bold conduct. Hamlet, on the other hand, is alienated from the rest of his family after becoming aware of the offenses that his mother and uncle committed. His relations with them fractured and he became scattered in the mind. He is tormented by the conceived images of his mother’s affection with his uncle, detailing the adultery as “rank,” “gross”- the world an “unweeded garden” (I.ii.139-40). Hamlet subsequently loses the grounding of family. He loses a significant framework of his conduct. This renders Hamlet confused and introspective. His genuine disposition becomes much more inwardly focused. Correspondingly, Hamlet does not act like much of a prince when compared to Fortinbras. Norway’s prince places much value on honor and glory, as reputation is an integral component to royal culture. While passing by Fortinbras’s army which was making its way to Poland, Hamlet encounters this foreign sense of pride. Although the target piece of land in Poland is relatively negligible, Fortinbras “goes to gain a little patch of ground / That hath in it no profit but the name” (IV.iv.18-9). There is not much to capitalize off the land. The purpose of this conquest is purely for recognition and glory- “the name.” And to do so much for what is physically and abstractually so small puts Hamlet to shame. There is no true reason for invading Poland. Fortinbras does so to occupy himself and his time; he does it because he can. He does not need a reason. Maintaining his family’s honor is all about a show of power and arms, and has little to do with rational. In contrast, while Fortinbras raises an army to conquer because he can, Hamlet spends four acts of the play simply thinking about revenge, among other things- primarily existentialism. Evident in his soliloquies, Hamlet immerses himself in self-deprecation. He contemplates suicide and quickly compares himself to others. Hamlet:What would he the player do Had he the motive and the cue for passion That I have? He would drown the stage with tears And cleave the general ear with horrid speech, Make mad the guilty and appall the free(II.ii.587-91)This section briefly touches on Hamlet’s absence of initiative but primarily focuses on what is almost an emotional detachment. He feels ashamed that he cannot conjure as much passion as the player, who is only acting. Hamlet considers himself “pigeon-liver’d” and finds it disgraceful that he is culpable of not caring for his father enough and not hating Claudius enough (II.ii.604).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,Even for an egg-shell. (4.4, 47-53)Hamlet, an observer to Fortinbras’s conquest for glory, commends him. Hamlets admiration for Fortinbras explicitly tells the audience Shakespeare’s intentions regarding tragic flaws and honorable traits. The hesitation and long winded idling did nothing for Hamlet. Hamlet was a victim of unfortunate circumstance and took too long to act. Fortinbras, a victim of similar circumstance, was ready to commit his men and himself to glory, regardless of the dangers which would transpire. The two responded to their sufferings in different ways, and Shakespeare uses Fortinbras to signal what he believes to be the right way. Although Fortinbras may be logistically excessive in his response- assembling an entire military to validate his reputation- the principle is still legitimate. Hamlet, by pledging to become more like Fortinbras, demonstrates what the model values of the play are. Fortinbras’s example is the catalyst which ignites Hamlet’s ultimate feat of killing Claudius.