Commentary on Shakespeares Hamlet, Lines 10 52
In this passage, the audience witnesses a conversation between Laertes and Ophelia, who are brother and sister. This passage is an important one as it reveals something about the relationship between the two siblings and through this; aspects of their character are also learnt. Furthermore, Shakespeare demonstrates aspects of Hamlet, and how these two characters feel about him through their contrasting opinions. There is also a lot of effective use of language, especially imagery, full of powerful contrast, military imagery as well as virginity imagery. The style of Laertes speech further adds to the success of this dialogue, and so does Ophelias.
Shakespeare expresses Laertes and Ophelia to have an open and caring relationship, which is demonstrated by this scene. Laertes is protective of Ophelia, providing overprotective, genuine advice all the way through. For example, keep you in the rear of your affection. He is a caring brother and addresses her as his dear sister. This highlights his affection and the closeness of their relationship. This open relationship is obvious when we look at the topic of conversation as they willingly discuss matters of Ophelias virginity, chariest maid. However, this can also be perceived as blunt. It is also apparent when he says, if he says he loves you, /It fits your wisdom so far to believe it, paying little attention to the way this is affecting Ophelias emotions. Furthermore, he begins his speech with, Think it no more, not considering what this would mean for Ophelia, and on top of this, one of his tactics to get Ophelia to obey him is to scare her, but you must fear. Therefore, although trying to be truthful, this honesty comes across as blunt and hurtful. Even though he worries about his sisters feelings and pride enough to warn her away from Hamlet, he is unintentionally insensitive. Ophelia on the other hand is very obedient, I shall theffect of this good lesson keep/ As watchmen to my heart. She clearly appreciates and acknowledges his advice. However, a spirited side of her character is revealed, as she does retaliate slightly, do not as some ungracious pastors do. Through this she makes fun of her brother as she points out the fact that he is preaching to her. She also calls him hypocritical, recks not his own rede. The audience witnesses a playful relationship between brother and sister, supporting their close relationship.
In this extract, Laertes reveals his opinion of Hamlet. He is constantly reminding Ophelia and the audience of Hamlets position, his greatness weighed and subject to his birth. He highlights the fact that Hamlet is in a position where he cannot make decisions for himself, Carve for himself, for his choice depends/ The sanctity and health of this whole state. This constant referral to Hamlets power is in order to really emphasize the effect it will have. Although he is constantly bringing to light this fact, he is not trying to blame Hamlet. He regards Hamlet highly, He may not, as unvalued persons do. This shows that he appreciates he has good intentions, but believes that he will not keep his promises as he is subject to his birth. As well as this, he also appreciates the fact that he will keep his promises to his state, he portrays Hamlet as a caring King, who will not, carve for himself, and rather he would do things in the interest of this country, choice be circumscribed/ Unto the voice and yielding of that body. Even though Laertes depicts Hamlet as a good King, he doesnt regard him as highly when it concerns his sister. Here he refers to Hamlet as a seducer, his songs, this conjures up the image of mermaids. He also refers to him as a thief, your chaste treasure open. In this scene, the audience is forced to feel sorry for Hamlet as the woman he desires is warned off him, even though he has done nothing wrong. This emphasizes that Hamlet is not free.
This extract is full of imagery, especially in Laertes speech. He tries to emphasize the effect that Hamlets love will take on Ophelias life by using strong contrasting images, such as, liquid dew of youth, which is a beautiful image, and contagious blastments, which is a disgusting one. However, Ophelia also uses contrasting images to emphasize how her brother is being hypocritical. She obviously contrasts, steep and thorny way with primrose path. These images are very successful in their contrast as they add to the humour as Ophelia ridicules his speech. Laertes uses military imagery such as personifying Hamlets love as a shot, something capable of killing. He warns Ophelia of the danger of desire, using alliteration to really draw attention to it. On top of this, there is a military metaphor, keep you in the rear of your affection, which shows that although he is talking about desire and love, he is comparing it to the caution required in situations of war. Virginity is a main theme of his speech and therefore Laertes uses various ways to refer to it, and show Ophelia the importance of protecting her virtue. For example, chaste treasure is a reference to her virginity. As well as the canker galls the infants of the spring, this is an unpleasant image, being used as a symbol of virginity. Another image is the moon, the goddess of virginity, which adds to the theme of his speech.
All the impressive uses of imagery aid the effect of Laertes speech. The style is very well prepared and serious. He treats the matter seriously when he compares it with death and concerns Ophelia with questions of honour, loss your honour. The speech is written in iambic pentameter which shows that it is carefully planned and worked out. On top of this it finishes with a rhyming couplet, to bring the speech to an end:
Be way then, best safety lies in fear:
Youth to itself rebels, though none else near.
It has a political feel about it as well as Laertes tries to argue his case and persuade Ophelia to listen to him, which can be compared to the style with which his father speaks. Laertes style of speech contrasts with Hamlets more flowery and emotional soliloquies. This contrast helps emphasize both these different styles. The style of Ophelias, much shorter speech, is not like Laertes. She manages to express what she needs in much fewer words, which means her style is less elaborate and prepared.
Overall, I feel that Shakespeare was successful in this extract. We are left with a strong sense of the platonic love between Laertes and Ophelia. Laertes reveals his concerns about Ophelia and Hamlet and shares his opinion of Hamlet, while we learn a little about Ophelias spirited nature. The effective language in the prose is used mainly by Laertes to emphasize all the points he is making to Ophelia, he tries hard to make sure that she fully understands the danger of Hamlets affections. The most obvious use of language, and most important, are the images, these are often powerful ones, especially when contrasted. This careful language combined with the use of iambic pentameter creates a prepared effect, as well as the structure of his argument. This style contrasts with Hamlets more flamboyant monologues, making it seem even more prepared and structured.