Act I – Scene.iii
Laertes prepares to leave the castle and head for
He advises Ophelia, his sister, to reject Hamlet’s advances explaining that Hamlet only considers her as a plaything. Because of who Hamlet is, he will marry a greater person than her. Polonius enters and gives Laertes lengthy advice on how to live in Paris, full of clich's such as ‘neither a borrower or a lender be’. He too advises Ophelia to reject Hamlet’s advances, saying that he only wants her for one purpose. Ophelia promises to obey her father and break her relationship off with the Prince.
It is clear from the script that Laertes’ speech to
Ophelia had been prepared, and he more or less recites it. Shakespeare used blank verse for this section in order to emphasize this.
Perhaps he was prompted by Polonius, as he too councils his daughter to reject Hamlet.
Shakespeare constructs the character of Laertes in order to directly
contrast that of Hamlet. Whereas Hamlet speaks emotionally and inspirationally from the heart, Laertes has rehearsed his speech for his sister, and is not spontaneous.
Polonius is anxious to ingratiate himself with the King and Queen.
He lives in a world of show. He regards his daughter, Ophelia, as an item of property, whose sole purpose is to bring honor and fortune to his family. He is certain that Hamlet would not choose Ophelia to be his wife, so he cannot afford for her to become soiled goods. This clearly puts Ophelia into a dilemma, for her relationship with Hamlet has clearly gone beyond what her brother and father think and this is borne out by her actions later on in the play. However, she must obey her father’s wishes, even though she is clearly smitten with Prince Hamlet.