Laertes' MotivationsHarold Bloom speculates that part of Laertes' motivations in keeping Ophelia from Hamlet is jealousy:  of his position, his intellect, his freedom.  To what extent do you...

Laertes' Motivations

Harold Bloom speculates that part of Laertes' motivations in keeping Ophelia from Hamlet is jealousy:  of his position, his intellect, his freedom.  To what extent do you agree or disagree?  What evidence supports your position?  

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clane's profile pic

clane | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted on

I absolutely agree with Bloom on this subject for several different reasons. Laertes wants the favor and attention of his own father. Polonius spends most of the play focusing his attention on Hamlet and Ophelia and their budding love, which leaves Laertes out and you can almost feel his disappointment as the plot unfolds and he makes his way on stage each time. In an effort to gain attention and favor somewhere to combat his jealousy and equalize himself with Hamlet he goes to his arch enemy, Claudius and tries to win him over. Then Polonius dies at the hands of Hamlet and his sister Ophelia takes her own life and Laertes sees it all tied to Hamlet and his jealousy turns to a sort of rage. Hamlet gets this elevated status and all this attention and still had his status to boot. What better way for Laertes to rise to Hamlet's status than to be in the good favor of the king who Hamlet despises. He agrees to compete in Claudius' duel to gain the favor of both the king. The duel was certainly to avenge his father's death and the death of his sister which he blamed on Hamlet, but it was also so that he could finally receive the attention he felt he deserved. In the end as a final act of a guilty conscience and a revelation of clarity that he'll never rise above Hamlet now that he has been struck and that a he was simply a pawn in Claudius' own game he reveals Claudius' plot to Hamlet.

jeff-hauge's profile pic

jeff-hauge | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted on

I think there would have to be a degree of rivalry between these two young men. But I always remember that Laertes is the son of Polonius. He receives advice on being honest from a dishonest man. The most important part of the advice is to stay true to himself first then truth will follow to any man. Although he is easily used by Claudius, he does end with the desire to be honest with Hamlet about the cruel fixed duel.

I think Bloom adds great new light to Laertes' advice to Ophelia. His advice does turn out prophetic. Hamlet does abandon Ophelia for royal matters.

I do think Laertes proves to have much more freedom than Hamlet, though.

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