Esteban Pitre 8/27/11 ENC 1102 Literary Analysis: Hamlet Act I, Scene III Lines 55-80 In my attempt to read a small portion of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet I found myself perplexed. Laertes, the son of Polonius, is about to leave for France but warns his sister Ophelia to beware of Hamlet, the prince of Denmark. He fears that Hamlet may compromise her sexually and dishonor her. Ophelia harkens under her brother’s voice but mocks him and instructs him to practice what he preaches.
Polonius, the king of Denmark’s counselor, says his goodbyes to his son along with fatherly advice on how to conduct himself. Polonius is coaching Laertes on how to “act”, how to “seem”, and how to “show” himself publicly. As Laertes takes his leave Polonius also warns Ophelia against Hamlet. He believes that Hamlet’s interest in Ophelia is purely sexual, and bluntly orders her to have nothing more to do with him. Ophelia humbly promises to obey.
Polonius’ exclaims to Laertes in line 61-67: “Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar. Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried, grapple them unto thy soul with hoops of steel, but do not dull thy palm with entertainment of each new-hatched, unfledged courage. Beware of entrance to a quarrel, but being in, Bear ‘t that th’ opposed may beware of thee. ” Polonius lectures Laertes to hold his tongue and to hold his friends close to him, but not to take them for granted.
Those Friends Thou Hast
Furthermore, Laertes is told to beware of any fights with any one, and that no one should even dare to oppose him. Polonius’ final instruction to Laertes in lines 77-79, “This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man. ” Laertes is lastly told to be true to himself always (night and day). Most of what Polonius tells his son relates to etiquette, rather than ethical up until the last 3 lines. This worldly counsel includes thrift, moderation, prudence and so forth.