Laertes, the Wise Brother

In Act I, Scene 3, Laertes, shown as the wise older brother, is pitted against Polonius, his own father. This is proven through their words of advice to Ophelia. This status of Laertes’s wisdom (and Polonius’s lack thereof) continues throughout the play. Laertes is about to leave the country for school and offers Ophelia, his little sister, some words of advice. Of course, the advice centers around love because the rumor is that Hamlet loves Ophelia. Laertes suggests that Ophelia concentrate on other things and not focus on the love of any man. Laertes, then reminds Ophelia of her virtue as a maid. The crux of Laertes’s argument is that Hamlet “himself is subject to his birth.” That means that, no matter what, honor should be more important to Hamlet than Ophelia is. Laertes’s advice looks even more wise when it is held against the advice of Polonius only a few lines later. The difference in quality is astounding. For example, Polonius chides Laertes for procrastinating (“Aboard, aboard, for shame!”) and yet immediately keeps Laertes even longer with a huge harangue of silly advice. Spitting clichés, Polonius ironically gives quite a few popular quotes often used as allusions to Hamlet, including "neither a borrower or a lender be" and "This above all, to thine own self be true."