The Vanity of Polonious in Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Polonius is an important and respected person. It seems appropriate that he investigates and controls the behavior of his son and daughter. He, as the King's advisor is no longer a private person but a public one: what he or his children do has important public, not just personal implications. However, if his actions and speeches are examined closer, it is evident that he is a limited and vain person who is overly concerned with his appearance and wears different masks to tune up to different people.
In the following speech, Polonius is sending his servant, Reynaldo, to France in order to find out how Laertes, Polonius's son is behaving himself. Polonius instructs Reynaldo to …show more content…
For Polonius, however, the end justifies the means.
His methods of finding out the truth suggest that Polonius is not concerned about Laertes's well-being; rather Polonius is worried how Laertes is making him look. Polonius could have Reynaldo ask Laertes himself about his life in Paris. Since Polonius wants to know how Laertes appears to other people.
Polonius assumes immediately that Laertes is not behaving himself properly; he is ready to believe the worst about his son. He is absolutely sure that he knows how young men behave when away from parental control - drinking, fencing, quarreling, and going to a "brothel". Polonius has an inclination toward cynicism and suspicion of other people. For Polonius, acting rotten comes so naturally that he expects other people to also be like that. Polonius's tone suggests that he is at ease and not at all sorry about using dishonest methods or doubting their decency. In fact, his vanity makes him very proud of his crafty stratagems. This is evident in the closing lines of his speech where Polonius uses metaphors and pompous figures of speech to stress that he made up his strategy because "of wisdom and of reach," where "reach" means mental ability. However, as the following passage suggests, Polonius is in fact what Hamlet calls him - a "tedious old fool." (II. ii. 237).
Polonius has decided to tell Gertrude and Claudius that he has discovered the reason for
Polonius seemly hear all these vulgar and misogynistic rants and becomes ever more convinced that Hamlet is mad. He never rests easily until he ends up behind yet another arras, scheming, yet this time in Gertrude’s room and gets himself killed. The act of betrayal, by both Polonius and Gertrude has far-reaching consequences; Polonius is killed by Hamlet, Ophelia becomes mad and Laertes demands vengeance. Polonius’s betrayal disgusts Hamlet and he can only but refer to him as ‘a foolish prating knave’ and his mistreatment of his body when he says he will ‘lug his guts in the neighbour room’ can equally be taken as his disgust towards him.
Polonius had an evil plot. Polonius always spies on others to gain secret and private information. Polonius and Claudius together, work against Hamlet, and try to verify his sanity. Polonius performs as if he would do anything that Claudius asks of him, or anything that satisfies Claudius. Polonius willingly uses his daughter to assist Claudius in their plot against Hamlet. He even plans to ruin his son Laertes’ reputation and drive him from Denmark. Despite Polonius’ death, his unethical ways are still evident through Claudius’s actions. Claudius requests that Laertes fight with Hamlet, and he tries to poison him.
There is a general understanding that appearances can be deceiving. This is one of the most fundamental questions in philosophy, appearance vs. reality. When we meet people and get to know them throughout our lives, we soon discover that there is a genuine side to everyone behind the appearance they show. In the play Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, the characters Polonius, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and Claudius use appearance vs. reality to manipulate and deceive, which ultimately leads to their downfall.
Another instance where Polonius is a comic relief is when Hamlet is inviting the players into the castle. One player breaks into an emotional speech at Hamlets whim and Polonius interrupts with comments. “Fore God, my lord, well spoken, with good accent and/ Good discretion.”(IIii,447-448). Polonius is trying to commend the speaker to hasten him. After the speech keeps going on Polonius rudely interrupts with “This is too long”(IIii,478). As the player recites a part of the speech he becomes emotional with color and Polonius points it out. “Look whe’e he has not turned his color and has/ Tears in’s eyes.-Prithee, no more.”(IIii,499-500). Polonius is rude and pokes fun at the emotional speaker. His actions contrast with the player’s tragic speech emphasizing sorrow aspects of his speech.
Hamlet shows that artifice is embraced as an effective method to reveal the truth. For instance, when Laertes leaves for Paris, Polonius teaches Reynaldo how cunning with the intentions of obtaining information about Laertes' actions and whereabouts, thus revealing Polonius’ devious characteristics. Initially, Polonius
When individuals lack the ability to defend their ideas and personal preferences to others, with confidence they will lose their identity and sense of self as they allow others to control their opinions and thoughts. Ophelia’s lack of confidence in herself solidifies both Laertes and Polonius into occupying a dominant role expected of men in the 16th century. Polonius assures Ophelia that her obedience is the best thing for her, and creates this illusion of himself as a crutch she needs to respond to competing demands. Subsequently, when Ophelia finds herself torn between two loyalties – her love for Hamlet, and her father’s expectations, Polonius sways her to compliance with his ideas. “I shall obey, my lord.” (I, iv, 145 )This complete obedience of her father ultimately eliminates Ophelia’s self-preservation that would ensure her best outcome. It is clear her father’s requests of her are not out of love and concern for Ophelia but for his own issues of vanity and securing his status. This can be seen in misalignments in Polonius’ claims, and the condescension in his words to Ophelia. As Laertes prepares to leave, Polonius grants him with advice, “This above all: to thine own self be true.” (I, iii, 84). He contradicts
Issues of power are foremost in Polonius' mind. He immediately seeks the King in order to legitimate his accusations concerning Hamlet. By doing this, not only does Polonius gain power over Hamlet, but also with the King himself. Polonius tries to control the way Hamlet is seen around the court so as to rise in stature himself. Through his manipulation of Ophelia, Polonius becomes a character not as much concerned with familial ties as one whose concern rests within the world of court intrigue and position.
asks Reynaldo to defame his son. He is more obsessed with his image and fame than his son’s. Once Polonius was murdered, Laertes still wanted to avenge his fathers death, which shows this relationship was only one-sided.
The relationship is between Polonius and Laertes, is the ultimate bond. It is a bond, which contains the necessary love and respect in a father-son relationship, but yet it lacks the closeness, or real emotional bonding required in a true relationship. Polonius as a father loves Laertes and listens to him and councils him on different topics. He is proud of his son and his intelligence, yet he does not altogether trust this intelligence enough to let him use his own discretion in France. In the first scene of Act Two, we see Polonius
Polonius’ interactions with Hamlet are often the source of misinterpretations that Polonius is a bumbling fool. In every conversation, Polonius appears oblivious to the witty and cruel remarks Hamlet makes in response to his persistent questioning. Even when explicitly called a “fishmonger,” Polonius feigns surprised ignorance and suggests that Hamlet is insane rather than sarcastic (II.ii.187). He appears to continue ignoring Hamlet’s thinly veiled insults even when Hamlet compares Ophelia to “maggots in a dead dog,” assuming that Hamlet is “still harping on [his] daughter” (II.ii.669). However, Polonius is not the “tedious old fool” that he appears to be; just as Hamlet confessed to being “not in madness,/But mad in craft,” Polonius merely feigns stupidity (II.ii.224; III.iv.204-5). By pretending to be clueless, Polonius is able to question and study Hamlet further without
Polonius is telling Reynoldo to spy on his son, Laertes. During the conversation between Reynoldo, Polonius says, “Before you visit him, to make inquire, of his behavior" (2, 1, 4-5). Polonius believes that his son is not acting like a noble youth so he tells Reynoldo to watch his behavior. He tells Reynoldo ask people about his son. This tells us that Polonius does not trust his own son. He wants to use the information he finds about Laertes against him.
James L. Calderwood describes Polonius' counsel to his son: "imposing patterns of prudential wisdom on the departing Laertes--establishes the dominance of father over son…control through precept is reinforced by control through spying…in Act two scene one, where Polonius coaches Reynaldo in the subtleties of surveillance" (Calderwood 16). Ultimately, Polonius' advice to his children serves his own interests. He is consciously controlling his image as the wise old courtier and father, but he does not practice his own teachings. The wise old man routine is short-lived once his pre-occupations (his image and duties as lord chamberlain) are made clear.
Towards the beginning of Hamlet Laertes is leaving Denmark to make his place in the world. At the beginning of the play, Polonius speaks to his son and gives him advice because he knows his son's character very well. Famously Polonius tells his boy, "This above all: to thine own self be true" (I. iii. 78). He is told to do what he feels to be right, indicating that if he listens and thinks then maybe he will not err in his actions. Laertes is hot-headed and quick to act, rash behaviors which his father worries will get him into trouble. Physically, no description of Laertes is given, but he is usually played by an
One of the more subtle elements of corruption in the play is the manner in which the court of Denmark functions. It is a game of favors, a constant play, with the director as the King, his subjects the players, and none more prominent than Polonius, the royal advisor. Polonius' two main faults lie in his ingratiating manner and his incessant spying. While he tells his daughter Ophelia that Hamlet is not true in his affections, he explains to the King that he warned Ophelia against Hamlet because the Prince it far above her station in life. Polonius perceives himself to be witty and tries to weasel his way around with actions and words to best fit the situation and above all benefit himself. His inclination to spy on people is obvious for he sends a man to France to find out how his son is behaving, he spies on his daughter while she is with Prince Hamlet, and he hides behind the arras to listen to the confrontation between the Queen and Hamlet. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern also try to win favor with the King, foregoing any friendship they once had with Hamlet, to 'play upon [him] . . . pluck out the heart of [his] mystery,' acting as little more than spies for the King, feigning friendship to obtain Hamlet's secrets (3.2.372-374).