Polonius: A Fool in Shakespeare’s Hamlet

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Polonius: A Fool in Shakespeare’s Hamlet
Hamlet is the most popular of Shakespeare’s plays for theater audiences and readers. It has been acted live in countries throughout the world and has been translated into every language. Polonius is one of the major characters in Hamlet, his role in the play is of great interest to scholars. Parts of Hamlet present Polonius as a fool, whose love of his own voice leads to his constant babbling. Scholars have been analyzing the character of
Polonius for centuries, and his role in Hamlet will continue to be analyzed for centuries to come. Scholars believe that Shakespeare created Polonius as a fool because of his foolish dialogue throughout the play.
Polonius granted Laertes permission to go back to school in France. While saying good-bye in his chambers, Polonius tells his son: Beware Of entrance to a quarrel, but, being in, Bear’t that th’ opposed may beware of thee. Give every man they ear, but few thy voice. Take each man’s censure, but reserve they judgment. Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy, But not expressed in fancy (rich, not gaudy) For the apparel oft proclaims the man, And they in France of the best rank and station (Are) of a most select and generous chief in that. Neither a borrower or a lender (be,) For (loan) oft loses both itself and friend, And borrowing (dulls the) edge of husbandry. 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.
(1. 3. 71-87) The advice that Polonius gives to Laertes is simple and sounds foolish being told to a person of Laertes’ age. Martin Orkin comments on the nature of Polonius’ speech: 2 “Shakespeare’s first audience would recognize in Polonius’ predilection for such commonplace expressions of worldly wisdom a mind that runs along conventional tracks, sticking only to what is practically useful in terms of worldly self-advancement” (Orkin
179). Polonius gives Laertes simple advice, to keep his thoughts to himself and to never lend or borrow money. While this advice is simple, when looked at in full context his advice to his son is all about self-advancement. Polonius will go to all extremes to protect his reputation. Grebanier states on the foolishness of Polonius’ speech: “Such guidance will do for those who wish to make the world thei...

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...speare created Polonius as a very unique and complex character. Scholars argue and will continue to argue over the reasons for Polonius’ foolishness. Throughout the play Polonius tends to act foolish thinking that he knows the reason for Hamlet’s madness, while the audience knows that he is wrong.
Shakespeare created Polonius as a controversial character and only he will ever know why
Polonius was created so foolish.

Works Cited Grebanier, Bernard. The Heart of Hamlet. New York: Thomas Y. Cromwell
Co, 1960. Hartwig, Joan. “Parodic Polonius”. Texas Studies in Literature and Language: vol. 13, 1971. Kirschbaum, Leo. Character and Characterization in Shakespeare. Detroit:
Wayne State UP, 1962. Oakes, Elizabeth. “Polonius, the Man behind the Arras: A Jungian
Study.” New Essays on Hamlet. New York: AMS Press, 1994. Orkin, Martin. “Hamlet and the Security of the South African State.” Critical Essays on Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
New York: G.K. Hall and Co, 1995. Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Hamlet,
Prince of Denmark. New York: Washington Square Press published by Pocket Books,
1992. States, Bert O. Hamlet and the Concept of Character. Baltimore: John Hopkins UP,
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