How Does Laertes Present Ophelia's Relationship

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 791 |

Pages: 2|

4 min read

Published: Jun 14, 2024

Words: 791|Pages: 2|4 min read

Published: Jun 14, 2024

Table of contents

  1. Body
  2. Conclusion
  3. Bibliography

William Shakespeare's play, Hamlet, explores a complex web of relationships among its characters. One such relationship is between Ophelia, the young and innocent daughter of Polonius, and Laertes, her protective brother. Throughout the play, Laertes presents a unique perspective on Ophelia's character and her relationship with others. This essay will analyze how Laertes' portrayal of Ophelia sheds light on their relationship, highlighting the themes of love, family, and tragedy. By examining Laertes' advice to Ophelia, his reaction to her madness, and his role in her tragic end, we can gain a deeper understanding of their intricate bond.

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One of the first instances where Laertes presents Ophelia's relationship is through his advice to her before he departs for France. Laertes warns Ophelia about the nature of Hamlet's love, cautioning her not to be swayed by his affections. He says, "Perhaps he loves you now, / And now no soil nor cautel doth besmirch / The virtue of his will; but you must fear, / His greatness weighed, his will is not his own" (1.3.14-17). This advice is significant as it reveals Laertes' concern for his sister's well-being. He recognizes that Hamlet's love for Ophelia may not be sincere, as his position as the Prince of Denmark may influence his actions. Laertes' protective nature is evident in his words, as he wants to shield Ophelia from potential heartbreak.

Furthermore, Laertes' advice to Ophelia demonstrates the societal expectations placed upon women during Shakespearean times. He advises her to guard her chastity, saying, "Then weigh what loss your honor may sustain / If with too credent ear you list his songs, / Or lose your heart, or your chaste treasure open / To his unmastered importunity" (1.3.29-32). Laertes emphasizes the importance of Ophelia's honor and purity, indicating the restrictive nature of her role as a woman. This highlights the power dynamics within their relationship, with Laertes assuming a paternalistic role and dictating Ophelia's actions. Although well-intentioned, Laertes' advice reflects the societal norms of the time and the limited agency afforded to women.

As the play progresses, Ophelia's mental state deteriorates, leading to her eventual madness and death. Laertes' reaction to Ophelia's madness showcases his deep affection for his sister and his inability to protect her. When informed about her erratic behavior, Laertes exclaims, "Poor Ophelia! / Divided from herself and her fair judgment, / Without the which we are pictures or mere beasts" (4.5.106-108). Here, Laertes' grief and concern are palpable as he laments Ophelia's loss of sanity. He recognizes that without her rationality, she is reduced to a mere shell of herself, emphasizing the tragedy of her mental decline.

Laertes' reaction to Ophelia's madness also highlights the theme of familial love. Despite their earlier disagreements and differences in opinions, Laertes remains deeply connected to Ophelia. He is devastated by her suffering and the loss of their sibling bond. This portrayal of Laertes' love for his sister adds depth to their relationship and underscores the profound impact of Ophelia's madness on those who care for her.

The climax of Ophelia's story occurs when she drowns in a brook, an event that deeply affects Laertes. When he discovers her lifeless body, Laertes declares, "Lay her i' the earth, / And from her fair and unpolluted flesh / May violets spring!" (5.1.238-240). Laertes' anguish is evident in his words, as he mourns the loss of his beloved sister. His desire for Ophelia to find peace in death reflects his ultimate wish for her happiness, despite the tragic circumstances.

Moreover, Laertes plays a significant role in the events leading to Ophelia's demise. In Act IV, Laertes passionately confronts Claudius about his father's death and accuses him of being responsible. This confrontation sets in motion a chain of events that culminate in the final tragic moments of the play. Laertes' actions, driven by his grief and desire for revenge, inadvertently contribute to the unraveling of Ophelia's world. This further emphasizes the interconnectedness of their relationship and the devastating consequences that their actions have on one another.


In conclusion, Laertes' portrayal of Ophelia sheds light on their intricate relationship throughout Hamlet. From his advice to her, to his reaction to her madness, and his role in her tragic end, Laertes' perspective reveals the themes of love, family, and tragedy that permeate the play. Laertes' protective nature and concern for Ophelia's well-being highlight the complexities of their sibling bond. Additionally, his grief and anguish in response to Ophelia's suffering demonstrate the depth of their familial love. Ultimately, Laertes' actions inadvertently contribute to Ophelia's tragedy, underscoring the interconnectedness of their relationship and the devastating consequences they face. Through Laertes' portrayal of Ophelia, Shakespeare offers a poignant exploration of the complexities and fragility of human relationships.

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Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Edited by Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine, Folger Shakespeare Library, 2003.

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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How Does Laertes Present Ophelia’s Relationship. (2024, Jun 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 23, 2024, from
“How Does Laertes Present Ophelia’s Relationship.” GradesFixer, 14 Jun. 2024,
How Does Laertes Present Ophelia’s Relationship. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 23 Jul. 2024].
How Does Laertes Present Ophelia’s Relationship [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Jun 14 [cited 2024 Jul 23]. Available from:
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