Hamlet Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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In act 1, scene 3, of Hamlet, what is Polonius's advice to Laertes?

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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As Laertes sets off for France, Polonius peppers him with advice. This includes worldly advice fit for a courtier's son: dress as well (expensively) as you can, but in good, subdued taste; listen more than you talk; keep your opinions to yourself; be friendly but not too friendly. All of this has to do with the image you project and how you project and protect yourself. Polonius wants his son to be careful about the external face he shows to people.

Other, more heartfelt advice includes not borrowing or lending money and holding the true and tested friends you have made very close, or, as Polonius puts it:

Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel

The image of attaching a close friend to one's soul with hoops of steel shows the importance of a true friend. Polonius also ends his advice with heartfelt words that address issues deeper than mere surface appearance:

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In act 1, scene 3, Laertes is permitted to return to France to continue his education and his father, Polonius, offers him advice in the form of lengthy platitudes in hopes that Laertes will be successful and conduct himself in a decorous manner while he is out of the country.

Polonius begins by encouraging his son to keep his thoughts to himself and to not act without thinking. Polonius then tells his son to be friendly to people but not too kind and urges him to hold onto trustworthy friends. He also encourages his son to not go out of his way to shake everyone's hand or pick fights.

Polonius tells his son, "Give every man thy ear but few thy voice," which means Laertes should listen more and talk less (1.3.69). He proceeds to tell his son to spend a significant amount of money on clothes, because appearance is important in France, and discourages Laertes from borrowing or lending money. Polonius's last piece of advice to his son is to be true to himself. After listening to his father ramble about how he should conduct himself in France, Laertes says goodbye to his family and leaves for school.

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Lizette Eaves eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In this scene from Hamlet, young Laertes has just received permission from King Claudius to return to school in France (in scene 2).  Here his father, Polonius, gives him some fatherly (and quite famous) advice on how he should behave when he is away from home.

Polonius tells his son that his character is very important, and the he should make sure his actions and words mimic a strong character.  He reminds him that it is good and important to have friends, but make sure that these are good friends.  When you meet a new friend, beware that it may end in a fight ("Of each new-hatch'd, unfledged comrade. Beware of entrance to a quarrel").  However, he warns, if you get in a fight, make sure you're the man people fear to fight.  He tells Laertes, "Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice" which reminds him that it is more important to listen to what people have to say, and take in their opinions, than to be the one talking.  It is important that he dresses well, so he should spend as much money on his clothes as he car- provided that the clothes are not tacky- because people will judge the value of a man based on what he is wearing.  Do not borrow or lend money because it will ruin friendships and make you week.

Polonius concludes with the most famous line of his speech by telling his son above all the rules he has outlined, it is important that Laertes be true to himself.

This above all: to thine own self be true

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