What Advice Does Polonius Give Laertes?

Updated 30 September, 2023
When Laertes is going off to France, his father, Polonius, gives him some advice on how he should behave and dress. Polonius talks about the importance of friendship, good reputation, and appropriate appearance.
Detailed answer:

In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Polonius is the father of Laertes and Ophelia. He is the Lord Chamberlain (an officer who managed the household of a monarch or noble) and the right hand of Claudius. In Act I Scene III of the play Laertes has just received permission from Claudius to go to school in France. Then, Polonius enters the scene and offers his advice which he thinks will be fruitful for Laertes in France.
Polonius starts of his long speech with saying that character is important and that Laertes’ character should be projected or exhibited through his thoughts, words and deeds.
He then reminds his son about the beauty and importance of friendship and how this only can be seen when one surrounds himself with good friends. Thus he sincerely suggests him to think and choose his friends wisely. He also tell that when one has relationships, there will always be fights. He says that relationships with good friends may end in fights. And he says that when Laertes does get into a fight, he must fight in such a way that people around will fear to fight him.
Next, he explains to Laertes that he should listen more and talk less. It is important to hear people’s opinions and take them into account rather than be the one talking.
He goes on to comment on the dress code. Polonius advises his son to wear appropriate clothes; clothes that make him stand out above the rest. Polonius offers his insight by saying that human beings judge the nature and status of a man by the clothes he wears. He says, “Buy the clothes that you can afford, although not just everything you like – expensive, yes, but not gaudy because the clothes usually show what the man is – the top Frenchmen are good models for that.”
He also strictly advises Laertes to not borrow or lend money to friends as it can ruin relationships or have a negative effect on his reputation.
He concludes his speech with the most famous line in it - “this above all: to thine own self be true”. This means that Laertes must be true to himself. Whatever he speaks, he must act upon it.

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