HAMLET- Act 1, Scene 3

Summarise the events of the scene. As he prepares to leave for France, Laertes warns his sister Ophelia not to fall for Hamlet, a young man whose passions will change, and a prince who must marry to preserve the “sanity and health” of the state. Ophelia promises, but sassily tells Laertes to listen to his own advice.Polonius enters, scolds his son for taking so long, then immediately starts giving him long-winded advice about how to act: be sociable, but not vulgar; do not lend or borrow money; to your own self be true, and on and on… Finally, he lets Laertes leave.Polonius asks Ophelia what she was talking about with Laertes. Ophelia answers: Hamlet. After Polonius asks her to explain, she says that Hamlet has expressed his love for her. Polonius tells her that Hamlet is pretending to love her in order to sleep with her, and forbids her to talk to him. Ophelia promises to obey.
How are Hamlet and Laertes connected in their attitudes towards female figures? Laertes worries about Ophelia’s honor just as Hamlet worries about Gertrude’s. Women and sexuality/ Poison, corruption, death
How does the exchange between Laertes and Ophelia demonstrate the differing roles between men and women? Ophelia’s expectation to agree with Laertes and be subservient to his will demonstrates their inequality. This is also supported by Laertes’s ignorance of his own advice- the restrictions of honour do not apply to a man and so suggest his possessive nature. Woman and sexuality.
How does Laertes attempt to assert his authority over Ophelia and what does this suggest about him? “fashion”, “toy in blood”, “violet” = temporary images to reflect temporary nature of love. Laertes emphasises these images to attempt to assert his intellectual and thus moral authority over Ophelia, in a similar way to Polonius.
What images does Laertes use to warn Ophelia of losing her virginity to Hamlet? On one hand he uses images of conquest; “your chaste treasure open To his unmastered importunity.” which give a sense that he views Ophelia as a ‘conquest’ of Hamlet to satisfy his honour- a cynical image which possibly reflects his initial distrust of Hamlet. Laertes also uses the imagery of masks and disease; “The canker galls the infants of the spring”, “If she unmask her beauty…” This acts as forshadowing both to indicate the damaging nature of the truth or reality (Polonius’s death) and also the damaging nature of sexual innuendo which will eventually destroy Ophelia’s innocence and stability.
How do Polonius’s actions differ between Laertes and Ophelia and what does this demonstrate? Polonius gives Laertes advice, but gives Ophelia orders. Women are again expected to be subservient and obey men. Polonius’s true commanding nature surfaces when he addresses Ophelia. Women and Sexuality/ Appearance vs Reality.
How is the relationship between Ophelia and Polonius echoed within Hamlet? We see a division of status not just on sex but also on status, or age. Ophelia promises to obey Polonius as Hamlet promises to obey Gertrude- subservience is not merely a matter of social expectation but also of natural loyalty to one’s parents.
What does Polonius’s language suggest about his view of Ophelia? He uses the language of commerce; “free”, “bounteous”, “tenders”- Polonius tells Ophelia that her value lies in her virginity and honour (this will be proved true later in act 4). This however is a dehumanisation and views Ophelia as a commodity (link to language of commerce). “My daughter and your honour”- order of pronouns suggests that Polonius values his own interests above those of Ophelia.