Act I, Scene 3 Summary and Analysis

New Character
Ophelia: daughter to Polonius; sister to Laertes

Laertes meets Ophelia to say his farewells before returning to France. He warns her to beware of Hamlet’s trifling with her, and urges her to remain chaste. Ophelia agrees to heed his advice, while urging him to obey it as well. Polonius enters and counsels Laertes, who departs. Polonius also warns Ophelia of Hamlet’s amorous intentions, and finally instructs her to avoid him altogether. She assents.

This scene presents tender, if somewhat humorous, dialogue between sister and brother, father and son, and father and daughter. Buried in the conversation, however, is the undercurrent of honesty vs. deceit, love vs. betrayal, reality vs. appearances—all themes which recur throughout the play. Both Laertes and Polonius show great solicitude for Ophelia’s welfare, and she exhibits demure obedience to their advice, born of wider experience of the world than her own.