Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Summary of Act I, Scene 3

At Polonius’s house, Laertes is preparing to leave for France and saying goodbye to his sister, Ophelia. He warns Ophelia not to take Hamlet’s protestations of love too seriously, reminding her that he may be too far above her in birth ever to make good on his promises. Ophelia promises to take her brother’s advice to heart, but urges him not to give advice he doesn’t plan to follow himself.

Polonius enters and urges Laertes to hurry to his ship, but then delays him with long-winded advice about his behavior. Polonius advises Laertes to keep his thoughts to himself, avoid acting rashly, and treat people kindly but not with vulgarity. He also advises to hold onto old friends but take care when choosing new ones, to avoid fights but to fight to win if he does end up in one, to listen more than he talks, to dress well but not ostentatiously, to avoid borrowing or lending money, and to be true to himself above all things.

After Laertes leaves, Polonius turns his attention to Ophelia, asking her what Laertes said to her before he left. Ophelia says Laertes told her “something touching the lord Hamlet,” and she confesses that Hamlet claims to love her. Polonius lectures Ophelia, giving her the same advice Laertes gave her. He then forbids Ophelia from associating with Hamlet anymore, claiming that Hamlet has deceived her and that she should see his deceit for what it is and turn him down. Ophelia promises to obey.

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