Honor In Hamlet
Honor is a human construct. It is used to evaluate one’s worth and set expectations. Reputation, notoriety, dignity, honor: these all define one’s place in society, but they are not intrinsic. In Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet, various characters struggle with their honor. Laertes’s honor leads him to act irrationally, Hamlet’s honor finally inspires him to act, and the patriarchal society’s idea of Ophelia’s honor destroys her. Hamlet has a complex attitude towards honor, admitting that its application can inspire good, but overall the play criticizes honor.
Laertes has a powerful, internal sense of honor, which leads him to act thoughtlessly. In Act I scene 3 with Ophelia, he tells her to protect her honor and basically not have sex with Hamlet. In this example, his own personal honor demands that not only himself but his sister has a good reputation. Honor also leads him to seek revenge for his father’s death. This in turn leads to him acting violently and irrationally, threatening Claudius. He says, “Let come what comes, only I’ll be reveng’d/most thoroughly for my father” (5.4.134-135). Then, when Hamlet confronts Laertes at the fresh grave of his sister, his honor compels him to fight Hamlet, challenge him, and kill him. Laertes’s relationship with honor shows how it can make someone meddle in another person’s business and even harm others with little cause.
In a way, an idea of honor is forced upon Hamlet, corrupting his thoughts and actions. This pressure originates…