Hamlet

Laertes Character Analysis

Read our modern English translation.
Ophelia’s brother and Polonius’s son. A student at a university in France, Laertes is gallant, worldly, hotheaded, and obsessed with his family’s honor. In hopes of avenging Polonius and Ophelia’s deaths, Laertes conspires with Claudius to murder Hamlet, challenging Hamlet to a duel armed with a poison-tipped sword. He succeeds in stabbing Hamlet with the sword, but their weapons are switched during the fight, and Hamlet fatally stabs Laertes with the poisoned sword as well. As he dies, Laertes is remorseful over the deaths of Hamlet and Ophelia (who unknowingly drank from a cup of poisoned wine, Claudius’s backup plan should the duel fail), and calls out to Hamlet that “the king’s to blame,” implicating Claudius in their murders. Hamlet, realizing the sword is poisoned, stabs Claudius and forces him to drink the poisoned wine. Just before Laertes perishes, he cries out that Claudius has gotten the fate he deserves, and that he forgives Hamlet.

Laertes Quotes in Hamlet

The Hamlet quotes below are all either spoken by Laertes or refer to Laertes. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Action and Inaction Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Simon & Schuster edition of Hamlet published in 1992.
Act 1, Scene 3 Quotes

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.

Related Characters: Polonius (speaker), Laertes
Page Number: 1.3.84-86
Explanation and Analysis:
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Laertes Character Timeline in Hamlet

The timeline below shows where the character Laertes appears in Hamlet. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 2
Appearance vs. Reality Theme Icon
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Religion, Honor, and Revenge Theme Icon
...new wife Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother and the queen; Hamlet himself; Claudius’s councilor Polonius; Polonius’s children Laertes and Ophelia; and several members of court. Claudius delivers a long monologue in which he... (full context)
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Claudius says that he knows Laertes has a request for him, and tells the young man to ask for anything he... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 3
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As Laertes prepares to sail back to France, he bids goodbye to his sister, Ophelia, and warns... (full context)
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Polonius enters to give Laertes’s departure his blessing. He gives his son some fatherly advice, warning the young man to... (full context)
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After Laertes leaves, Polonius asks Ophelia what her brother told her. Ophelia tells him that Laertes gave... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 1
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...he expects him to do on his mission abroad—Reynaldo is to gather information on what Laertes is up to in Paris by infiltrating the fringes of Laertes’s social scene and finding... (full context)
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Polonius suggests that Reynaldo pretend to be a casual acquaintance of Laertes and try to gossip with his friends about Laertes’s problems with drinking, gambling, and women... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 5
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...loud noise outside, and then a messenger comes into the hall. The messenger reports that Laertes has taken up arms against Claudius—and that he has the support of the Danish people,... (full context)
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Laertes enters with a band of followers but tells them to stand down while he meets... (full context)
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Another noise is heard offstage, and Ophelia enters. As Laertes sees what has become of his sister, he swears that he will make sure his... (full context)
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Claudius says he shares in Laertes’s grief over the disintegration of Ophelia’s mind. He offers to stand and be judged by... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 7
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Claudius and Laertes discuss Claudius’s innocence in Polonius’s murder—which Laertes has come to believe. Laertes, however, wants to... (full context)
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...Hamlet—one for Claudius, and one for the queen. Claudius offers to read them aloud for Laertes. Hamlet’s letter to Claudius reveals that he has been “set naked on [Claudius’s] kingdom”—in other... (full context)
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Claudius asks Laertes to help him in coming up with a new way to get rid of Hamlet... (full context)
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Claudius tells Laertes that if he truly still loves his father—and still wants to avenge him—he must “show... (full context)
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Claudius tells Laertes that when Hamlet arrives home, Laertes should keep a distance from him rather than jumping... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 1
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Claudius, Gertrude, Laertes, a group of courtiers, and a priest approach bearing a coffin. Noticing the plainness of... (full context)
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Laertes asks the priest what rites will be performed. The priest says that he’s already “as... (full context)
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...that Ophelia is the one who has died, cries out in pain. He watches as Laertes, distraught, jumps into his sister’s grave and continues loudly weeping for her. Hamlet comes forward,... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 2
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...he has a message for Hamlet from the king. He uses florid language to compliment Laertes and praise the man’s good, strong nature, then states that Claudius has bet on Hamlet... (full context)
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...a bad feeling about the outcome of the wager. Hamlet insists he’s prepared to fight Laertes—even as he admits that he, too, has an “ill […] about [his] heart.” Horatio urges... (full context)
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Claudius, Gertrude, Laertes, Osric, and many lords and courtiers bearing trumpets, fencing rapiers, and wine enter the hall.... (full context)
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Osric hands Hamlet and Laertes their swords, and they prepare to duel. Claudius says that he will blast the castle’s... (full context)
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As the third round begins, Hamlet challenges Laertes to give it his all. The men are evenly matched—but Laertes at last lands a... (full context)
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...doors—there has been “treachery” in the hall, and they must find out who is responsible. Laertes, however, speaks up and confesses that he is the traitor. He tells Hamlet that Hamlet... (full context)