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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
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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