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Is there any significance in Shakespeare's use of "Laertes" (name of the father of Odysseus) in Hamlet?

Do we associate the name with The Odyssey more strongly than Shakespeare, to whom it was just an available name with a nice ring to it?

If there is a connection, what is it?

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  • There's some analysis here discussing reasons why Shakespeare might have made this connection deliberately.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Jan 11, 2019 at 15:04

1 Answer 1

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My guess is that it had a nice ring to it, though maybe Shakespeare was making a subconscious or conscious connection.

  • The salient connection I find is that Polonius, like Odysseus, is a bit of a trickster.

Odysseus was renowned for his cleverness specifically. He would do things that were dishonorable (such as murdering enemies in their sleep) and still receive the favor of the gods. Polonius spies on people and uses his daughter to manipulate Hamlet.

Laertes is the son of Polonius, not the father, so maybe that has something to do with the inverted fate of Polonius compared to Odysseus.

Both Laertes are sympathetic characters.

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    Polonius, though, doesn't seem so favoured by the gods as Odysseus: he comes to a famously sticky end.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Jan 27, 2019 at 13:09
  • @Randal'Thor from a post-modern standpoint, I might suggest that Shakespeare's inversion of the relationship indicates Polonius' alternate fate (compared to Odysseus;)
    – DukeZhou
    Commented Jan 28, 2019 at 20:10

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