The Deceptive Character of Polonius in William Shakespeare's Hamlet Essay

The Deceptive Character of Polonius in William Shakespeare's Hamlet Essay

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The Deceptive Character of Polonius in William Shakespeare's Hamlet

"Oh, what a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive!". This quote by
Sir Walter Scott has been heard around the world, translated into many languages, and repeated
to us by parents, teachers, and our peers. What does it truly mean? Humans create major and
possibly chaotic problems when trying to beguile others. This quote not only applies to one
person affecting another, but also how the actions of one person trying to deceive many people
through double-talk or hypocrisy lead to complex and sometimes unresolveable events. The
character Polonius in Shakespeare’s Hamlet fits the description of one who tries to deceive others
by wearing different “masks”, double-talking, and practicing hypocrisy to gain the approval of
others..
It is safe to assume that since he is the King’s advisor, Polonius must act as a public
person to protect the King’s best interest. Therefore; on a basic literal level, it is justifiable for
Polonius to want to spy on everyone to protect the King. 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. His first mask is the one
he puts on for Laertes and Ophelia before sending Laertes off to England. He wants Laertes and
Ophelia to think of him as a wise, moral, and respectable father as shown in the following lines:
“Give thy thoughts no tongue, nor be unproportioned thought his act.... Those
friends thou hast, and adoption tried, grapple them unto thy soul with hoops of
steel.....Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice. Take every man...


... middle of paper ...


...ation to the main
themes of the play and helps us gain insight on other characters. I find the following quote to be
one of Polonius’ most ironic lines: "Madam, I swear I use no art at all," (II. ii 104). Readers
should laugh to the absurdity of this statement. Polonius used a very wicked art; deceit, to gain
knowledge that was none of his business. Polonius was a conniving, pompous hypocrite whose
“end was justified by his means.” He was literally stabbed in the back without his identity being
known to the murderer, just like he symbolically stabbed Hamlet in the back with his reports and
comments to the King questioning Hamlet’s sanity. The artificiality of Polonius suggests the kind
of world in which Hamlet and the other characters live in after his death, as well as a world in
which we live today: full of deceit, hypocrisy, pretense and masks.

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