In act 1 scene 3 of Hamlet, what is Laertes's advice to Ophelia?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In act 1, scene 3, Laertes is about to depart for France. Before he leaves, however, he offers his sister, Ophelia, some advice about her relationship with Hamlet. Firstly, he tells her not to take too seriously the affections that Hamlet has shown for her. He says...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

In act 1, scene 3, Laertes is about to depart for France. Before he leaves, however, he offers his sister, Ophelia, some advice about her relationship with Hamlet. Firstly, he tells her not to take too seriously the affections that Hamlet has shown for her. He says that she should consider Hamlet's affections "a fashion and a toy in blood." In other words, Laertes doubts that Hamlet really loves his sister, and suspects that Hamlet's affections are a temporary consequence of youthful, hot-blooded passion. He says that Hamlet's affections for his sister will not last, and that they are only the "perfume and suppliance of a minute. / No more."

Laertes then tells Ophelia to remember that Hamlet, as a member of the royal family, is "subject to his birth," and that, therefore, whatever choice he might make as regards who becomes his wife, may not be his choice alone. The implication is that even if Hamlet did love her, he might very well have to disappoint her later when he has to choose a woman more suitable to take the position of queen.

Laertes continues by implying that Hamlet might really only be interested in having sex with Ophelia. He asks Ophelia to imagine what it would be like to have given her "chaste treasure" (her virginity) and thus her honor to Hamlet, only for him to subsequently tell her that he can't marry her because the country, and the royal family, want somebody else to be the queen. Laertes implores his sister to be afraid of this eventuality, and to bear it in mind should Hamlet ever tell her that he loves her. Laertes tells Ophelia that to remain afraid of this outcome is the best way for her to remain chaste, and honorable, while he is away.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Act I scene three, Laertes tells is only sister goodbye as he heads to France for school.  He is concerned about his sister's growing attachment to Prince Hamlet and so he warns her to be cautious of his hidden plans.  Laertes warns his sister to be chaste threatening that if she gives into Hamlet, he will grow bored with her and leave her.  He reminds her that Hamlet is a prince and can have anyone and so could just be toying with her.  Ophelia agrees to his request while reminding Laertes to do the same while he is in France.

This scene introduces the love Laertes has for his sister and shows us how he wants to protect her.  This will be important later in the play.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team