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Hamlet – the Character Laertes

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Hamlet – the Character Laertes  

    In the Bard of Avon’s famous tragedy Hamlet the character of Laertes is less clearly presented than others. He is the chamberlain’s son, and yet he commands popular respect and support for a bid for the kingship. How does one piece together all the evidence in his life?


In “The World of Hamlet” Maynard Mack describes the interference of a possessive Polonius in the life of his son, Laertes:


“The apparel of proclaims the man,” Polonius assures Laertes, cataloging maxims in the young man’s ear as he is about to leave for Paris. Oft, but not always. And so he sends his man Reynaldo to look into Laertes’ life there – even, if need be, to put a false dress of accusation upon his son (“What forgeries you please”), the better by indirections to find directions out. (250)


Laertes makes his appearance in the drama after Marcellus, Barnardo and Horatio have already seen the Ghost and have trifled with it in an effort to prompt it to communicate with them. Laertes is in attendance at a social gathering of the court at Elsinore. Laertes, like Fortinbras a rival of Hamlet (Kermode 1138), appears with his father, Polonius, who is later shown to manipulate both him and his sister (Boklund 122). Laertes respectfully approaches the king, who asks, “And now, Laertes, what's the news with you? / You told us of some suit; what is't, Laertes?” Laertes responds in a manner befitting the son of the lord chamberlain:


My dread lord,

     Your leave and favour to return to France;

     From whence though willingly I came to Denmark,

     To show my duty in your coronation [. . .] . (1.2)


After Claudius wishes Laertes a farewell for his trip back to F...

... middle of paper ...

...Ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1974.


Mack, Maynard. “The World of Hamlet.” Yale Review. vol. 41 (1952) p. 502-23. Rpt. in Shakespeare: Modern Essays in Criticism. Rev. ed. Ed. Leonard F. Dean. New York: Oxford University P., 1967.


Rosenberg, Marvin. “Laertes: An Impulsive but Earnest Young Aristocrat.” Readings on Hamlet. Ed. Don Nardo. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1999. Rpt. from The Masks of Hamlet. Newark, NJ: Univ. of Delaware P., 1992.


Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 1995. No line nos.


Ward & Trent, et al. The Cambridge History of English and American Literature. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1907–21; New York:, 2000



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