Though seeming to simply be a minor character, Laertes is of great importance in the play, Hamlet, and much more than one would initially believe, due to his extensive inner conflict. He is good, loyal, and honourable, seeming to possess the greatest virtue of all the characters, yet he still is doomed to die along with the other characters, precisely because of his great virtue.
As Scene Two begins, in the first lines which Laertes speaks in the play, he requests that King Claudius allow him to return to his duties in France. This is important from the viewpoint that it demonstrates his dislike for the King and his wish to be away from the questionable circumstances of his marriage and subsequent ascension to the throne, a wise decision, and an attempt to remain apart and above the world, as the Greek ÒsupermanÓ is seen to gain immortality by doing, though Laertes does have personal feelings in the matter, unlike the true Stoic, thus his attempt is a failure, though a noble one.
As Scene Three begins, Laertes is speaking with his sister, Ophelia, about her relationship with Hamlet, and warning her to ÒWeigh what loss your honour may sustain,/ If with too credent ear you list his songs,Ó (1.3.29) else she lose her virtue to Prince Hamlet. This exemplifies his loyalty and love for his family, and especially his sister, though she replies to his warnings and advice with the sarcastic reply to do not ÒShow me the steep and thorny way to heaven,/ Whilst, like a puffed and reckless libertine,/ Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads/ And recks not his own rede.Ó (1.3.47) Following this, Ophelia and LaertesÕ father, Polonius, enters, and Laertes departs with a final warning to Ophelia.
Soon after Laertes departs, Polonius meets with Reynaldo, and instructs him to bring money for Laertes, but first to spy on him and to make sure that he stays out of trouble. It seems that it would be difficult for...