Hamlet Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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Hamlet clearly apologizes to Laertes in act 5, scene 2. How does Laertes respond? Given what we know about the plans of Laertes and Claudius, how do you take Laertes's promise? Can we say he has any honor at all? Has he followed his father's precept in act 1, scene 3?

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Laertes's response to Hamlet's apology is somewhat conditional. Despite his professions of love—which would have different connotations in those days between two men—it's clear that he's prepared to go through with the wicked revenge plot in which he's become embroiled. No sooner has he accepted Hamlet's apology than he picks up his sword and gets ready to run Hamlet through with a poisoned blade.

In doing this, Laertes is putting into practice the words he's just uttered to Hamlet. Yes, he's prepared to forgive Hamlet for hurting his feelings, but not for impugning his family's honor. The reference to consulting elders is just rhetoric; Laertes is not about to drop his sword and go off to have a chat with them before he can forgive Hamlet.

Laertes knows that he cannot properly make peace with Hamlet without staining his family's good name, so one can safely infer that such elders, such experts in honor, don't actually exist. Laertes only mentions them to justify what he's about to do....

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