Laertes is introduced as a loyal son and citizen. He is protective over his sister Ophelia and grateful for Polonius’s blessing before he leaves Denmark. Although he serves the crown well, family is clearly his priority and the institution he is most willing to fight for. From this portrayal, Laertes is a man intensely focused on honor.

As soon as Laertes’s family is harmed, his sense of loyalty shows its darker, more violent side. His temper leads him to walk, sword drawn, into the court and announce his plans to kill Claudius in revenge for Polonius’s death. Claudius and Gertrude just manage to calm him down before he sees Ophelia’s mental state and flies into a rage again. His intense loyalty to his family, which initially seems an honorable quality, blinds him to any course of action but violence in retribution. Laertes’s methods for achieving revenge are simple and blunt: he intends to find Hamlet and kill him on sight. It is only Claudius’s influence that convinces Laertes to make Hamlet’s death look like an accident.

As a fellow son of a murdered father, Laertes serves as a foil for Hamlet. Like Hamlet, Laertes is single-minded in his quest for retributive justice. Unlike Hamlet, Laertes is decisive and active in how he goes about achieving that justice. Laertes wastes no time seeking the person at fault for Polonius’s and Ophelia’s deaths. He is upfront with his intentions to get revenge and capable of following through with them. However, while this decisiveness seems preferable to Hamlet’s wallowing and procrastination, Laertes—like Hamlet—still dies in the end, indicating that obsession with one’s family leads to the same result.