LAERTES

Laertes is Polonius’s son, Ophelia’s brother and he appears in acts I (ii,1-63, iii,1-83 ), IV (v, 112 – 135) and V (i, 137-219 – ii ,250 – 337). The first time when Laertes appears he is going to leave for Paris; before he goes he gives his sister some cynical advice about Hamlet: that a prince like Hamlet cannot choose his wife freely. In act four, Laertes comes back to Elsinore to discover who killed his father to revenge him. When Laertes sees his sister’s condition he becomes even more enraged. In act five Laertes goes to Ophelia’s funeral; he is furious with Hamlet and makes an exhibition of his grief. Later Laertes, thinking that Hamlet is guilty of his father’s and his sister’s death, engages a mortal duel with Hamlet. It ends with the death of both. This character looks very cynical, protective, determined and impulsive. We can note that Laertes is cynical and protective in the dialogue with his sister; in fact he thinks only to his profits with respect to Hamlet but he worries about his sister’s conditions. We can compare Laertes situation with Hamlet’s. In fact, Laertes’s and Hamlet’s fathers were killed, both have decided to revenge them but in two different ways: Hamlet tries to reflect, Laertes instead, looks more impulsive and determined in his intentions. A striking contrast between Prince Hamlet and Laertes is established on their first appearance in the play; it is elaborated and developed in acts four and five when the revengeful Laertes first challenges the King and then becomes his accomplice in the plot that kills the Prince. Laertes is more a set of attitudes than a psychologically elaborated character. In the final stages of the tragedy he speaks and behaves as an uncomplicated revenge-hero, explicitly brushing aside almost all the moral objections that have prevented Hamlet from playing the role. In the graveyard scene Shakespeare contrasts the simplicity of Hamlet’s words (“I loved Ophelia“), with her brother’s verbose theatricality. Laertes distress sounds simulated; his language is mannered, overdone and melodramatic. Laertes is the instrument of Claudius’ treachery in the exciting swordfight which precipitates the final catastrophe.