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What does Hamlet mean by the quote from Act V, Scene 1, "Let Hercules himself do what...

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stojanovic | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 13, 2012 at 3:48 PM via web

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What does Hamlet mean by the quote from Act V, Scene 1, "Let Hercules himself do what he may..."? 

Hear you, sir; What is the reason that you use me thus? I lov’d you ever: but it is no matter; Let Hercules himself do what he may, The cat will mew, and dog will have his day.

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted June 13, 2012 at 5:24 PM (Answer #1)

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The context for this quote is Ophelia's funeral. Laertes has, in his grief, jumped into Ophelia's grave, and Hamlet follows him. Laertes attacks him, at which point Hamlet asserts that his love for Ophelia is far greater than that of Laertes. After a lengthy tirade, he asks Laertes why he had attacked him, because he had always been his friend. The last lines are saying, essentially, "what will be, will be." Even someone as strong as Hercules can't stop the course of events. This suggests that Hamlet believes fate is at work in the series of events that have taken place. It also seems to both foreshadow the violent ending while it sends the message that even his grief at the death of his beloved Ophelia (and the anger of her brother) has not put him off his sworn objective of avenging his father's murder. 

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