The Conversations Between Laertes, Ophelia, and Polonius in Hamlet



The conversations between Laertes, Ophelia, and Polonius in Hamlet Act 1 Scene 3 show the very different relationships they have with each other. When Ophelia discusses her relationship with Hamlet with Laertes and Polonius, they both seem to look down on her in varying behaviors. Laertes thinks less of her in the way that she is not intelligent enough and needs to be told serious things in a toned-down manner. On the other hand, Polonius seems to underestimate her by thinking of her as a child, often relating her to being a naive girl who knows nothing of the real world. He refers to her as “a green girl, unsifted in such perilous circumstance” and to “think [herself] a baby” for believing Hamlet’s words (Shakespeare 1.3.100-101, 104).  It comes across that Ophelia is more sensitive about her maturity over her intelligence or possibly values her father’s opinion more considering that with Polonius she feels the need to try and defend her relationship with Hamlet. However, with Laertes she seemed to be passively listening to the advice he was spewing and took it with a grain of salt. 

Furthermore, we can look at the conversations in this scene to see the way Polonius views his two children. In the text, Polonius gives Laertes a long list of advice before his departure, but his main message to his son is "to thine own self be true" (Shakespeare 1.3.77). Yet he implies quite the opposite for his daughter Ophelia, telling her exactly what she must think in terms of her relationship with Hamlet and not allowing her to have her own will. It is not fully clear why Polonius is so adamant about making sure Ophelia does not get serious with Hamlet. It could be that he is acting in his own interest and is more obsessed with his family’s honor, as he tells Ophelia that she will “tender [him] a fool” by continuing her relationship (Shakespeare 1.3.108). It could also be argued that he simply has enough information to know that nothing good will come from staying with Hamlet, regardless of if he truly loves her or not.