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Laertes Character Essay, Research Paper


Laertes? habits, traits and actions portray him as a neglectful person, unconcerned

about his actions and thus unconscious about his image. Laertes is also shown as a

cheating and deceitful person, though it is true that his surrounding and influences from

other characters also define his personality. Overall, Laertes? character in the play, is

more inclined towards the negative side of man.

In the beginning, Laertes is shown as a liberated and idle youth who spends most

of his time in luxury, resorting to such acts such as drinking, gambling, womanizing,

quarreling and betting. He commits these in Paris where he is away from Denmark for his

education, thus neglecting his duties and responsibilities. His father Polonious, totally

resents his misdoings, which is evident in his speech to Reynaldo, ?Ay or drinking,

fencing, swearing, quarreling and drabbling . . . . but breathe his faults so quaintly that they

may seem the taints of liberty?( Act II Scene 1 Lines 25-33). Polonius thus, condemns his

son?s activities , for these will get him no where in life. Thus, Laertes is shown with a very

reckless and careless attitude towards life and also possessing a very loose character.

Laertes seems to believe in a double standard of behavior of the sexes; how a man

can act to whatever he feels like but a female should keep to herself. Thus, through this

trait, he is seen as domineering towards females. This is evident in his lecture to his sister

Ophelia about men?s hypocritical ways. ? Perhaps he loves you know, and now no soil

nor cautel doth bismirch the virtue of his will; but you must fear his greatness weighed,

his will is not his own . . . . then weigh what loss your honor will sustain . . . . or loose

your heart, or your chaste treasure open?( Act I Scene 3 lines 15-32). In a very

commanding manner, he advises her to stay away from Hamlet protect her chasity for she

is a female. But, his sister Ophelia replies, ?Whiles, like a puffed and reckless libertine,

himself the promise path of dalliance treads and recks not his own rode.? ( Act 1 scene 3

lines 49-51) She apparently has some knowledge of Laertes? wrong doings and so replies

that he should not teach her strictness, a moral he himself does not believe in. Thus, he

kept a domineering attitude towards females. So, Laertes believed in a double standard of

the behavior of sexes.

On the contrary, other than being very domineering towards females, Laertes

possesses deep love and concern for Ophelia. Before his departure for France, Laertes

gives a long lecture to Ophelia concerning her relationship with Hamlet. Laertes voices

his concern of Hamlet?s true intentions towards Ophelia and advises her to be careful of

Hamlet?s love. He impresses upon Ophelia that Hamlet is a prince who most likely will

have an arranged marriage. Similar to that, Hamlet also loves Ophelia. His strong love

for Ophelia withers after she rejects his affinity. Hamlet?s extensive love for Ophelia

resulted in serious suffering for Hamlet once his affection was rejected. Hamlet?s

appearance decays due to the rejection of his love for Ophelia “Pale as his shirt, his knees

knocking each other”( Act 2, Scene 1, line 82). The loss of Ophelia?s love for Hamlet

instigates Polonius into believing it has caused Hamlet to revert to antic disposition. Once

Laertes learns of the death of his sister he is struck with sadness. In the same way, Hamlet

is shocked and enraged over Ophelia?s demise. Although, Hamlet and Laertes hated one

another, they both loved Ophelia.

Laertes and Hamlet are similar in another way, that they are attached closely with

their families. Laertes highly respects and loves his father Polonius. Similarly, Hamlet

holds great respect for his dead father. After the death of their fathers, Hamlet and

Laertes strive to seek revenge on each other.

Laertes displays impulsive reaction when angered. Once he discovers his father has

been murdered he immediately assumes the murderer is Claudius. As a result of Laertes?

conclusion, he instantly goes to avenge Polonius?s death. “To hell, allegiance! vows, to the

blackest devil! Conscience and grace, to the profoundest pit! I dare damnation: to this

point I stand, that both worlds I give to negligence, let come what comes; only I?ll be

revenged most thoroughly for my father.” Act 4 Scene 5 lines 128-134 provide insight into

Laertes? mind displaying his desire for revenge at any cost. In comparison to Laertes

speculation of his father?s killer, Hamlet also displays such a characteristic, when he

presumes that the person spying on his conversation with Gertrude is Claudius “Nay, I

know not: is it the King?” (Act 3, Scene 4 line 28). Likewise, Hamlet filled with anger

automatically sets out attempting to kill Claudius, but instead strikes Polonius. Hamlet?s

and Laertes? imprudent actions are incited by fury and frustration. Sudden anger blinds

both Hamlet and Laertes to act spontaneously, giving little thought to the consequences of

their actions

In the play, when Laertes? character becomes critical, it is noted that one topic

preoccupies him and that is, he has to avenge his father?s murder and his sister?s insane

condition which drives her to death, and do it on any cost. He expresses his vengeful

feelings on many occasion, such as when he arrives at the castle, he remarks, ? To hell,

allegiance! vows, to the blackest devil! Conscience and grace, to the profoundest pit! I

dare damnation: to this point I stand, that both worlds I give to negligence, letcome what

comes; only I?ll be revenged most thoroughly for my father.” (Act 4 Scene 5 lines

128-134), and then again in front of Claudius ?And so I have a noble father lost; a sister

driven into desp?rate terms. . . . but my revenge will come?(Act IV Scene 2 lines 25-29)

Thus, he is very determined to take revenge from his father?s murderer and this is what

Claudius takes advantage of. Claudius, also wanted to remove Hamlet and he saw that

Laertes could be used for this purpose. So, he tries to raise his anger such as he tells him

? Now that I think you did not love your father; but that I know love is begun by time . . .

. what would you undertake to show yourself your father?s son in deed more than in

words? Act IV Scene 7 Line 110-124 shows that how Claudius sparks more anger into an

already burning heart and challenges Laertes that he needs to do more than just utter

words to express his feelings.Another part of Laertes is exposed in later part of the play

which is that how he resorts to cheating and deceit to revenge his father?s death. Laertes

feels that his sense of honor has been touched by his father?s murder, saying that he would

rather ?dare damnation? (Act IV scene 5 line 131) then let his father?s murder unavenged

and himself left dishonored. So, working on Claudius plan, Laertes challenges Hamlet to

a fencing match where he would use a pointed and poisoned sword and kill him this way.

If Laertes would not have had treachery in his mind he would rather fight a duel to death

and fight in the right and fair manner. This very characteristic is not seen in Hamlet

nowhere, Hamlet is an honorable and true to his word man. Though, they also share many

similarities in their character.

In the very end of the play, it is seen that how Laertes? impulsive behavior and

dishonorable character lead to his death. In the fencing match, Laertes gets hit by the

pointed sword instead and thus dies. But, before he dies he rises to the true honor of

admitting that he has committed wrong behavior and thus, in shame and apology informs

Hamlet of Claudius?s plans. All this he does in exchange for forgiveness. But if his true

show of honor and truth in the end, raises his honor, his false honor destroys his whole

character and appearance. Thus the character of Polonius comes to end, an end which he

himself led to.

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