In William Shakespeare's tragedy Hamlet, what two reasons does Claudius give Laertes for not yet having killed Hamlet after Laertes returns home?

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kcoleman2016 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Laertes returns home from England enraged at the news of his father's death. Upon his arrival, his grief is deepened by his sister's insanity, and he desperately wants revenges. Claudius carefully manipulates Laertes' anger, directing it away from himself and towards Hamlet, instead. When Laertes asks why Claudius has allowed Hamlet to remain alive, Claudius cleverly gives two reasons:

  1. "The queen his mother / Lives almost by his looks; and for myself -- / My virtue or my plague, be it either which -- / She's so conjunctive to my life and soul, / That, as the star moves not but in his sphere, / I could not but by her" (IV.vii)

    Gertrude deeply loves Hamlet, and Claudius loves Gertrude. If he hurts Hamlet, he will hurt Gertrude, and he cannot abide to hurt her. 

  2. "The other motive, / Why to a public count I might not go, / Is the great love the general gender bear him" (IV.vii) 

    The Danish people love Hamlet, and do not believe anything about him that is not flattering or positive.