Role:

  • Father of Leartes and Ophelia
  • Courtier to late King Hamlet and present King Claudius
  • He plans for Ophelia and Hamlet to meet in the hall, so he can find out the reason behind Hamlet’s madness.
  • Sends Reynaldo to spy on his son Leartes, in Paris.
  • Plans with King Claudius to hide and spy on Hamlet when he talks to his mother, Queen Gertrude.

Traits & Proof:

  • Polonius’ traits are proven through the relationships with the King, Ophelia, Leartes and Hamlet.

Stubborn

“I have found / the very cause of Hamlet’s lunacy” (II.ii.48-49). Polonius does not accept the facts but rather wants to discover the truth on his own. He goes through great trouble to find about Hamlet’s madness. He puts his theories to play when he sacrifices his own daughter to prove his point.

Reprehensible

Polonius changes his behaviour from responsible to juvenile. This transition is proven when he insists on proving his point through mindless schemes and eventually turns into a spy. As this scheme is executed, he comes up with another scheme, to hide and listen to Queen Gertrude and Hamlet talk, which backfires and causes his death. In act two, scene two, he instructs Reynaldo to Paris to spy on Leartes, and he sets up a way to spy on Hamlet in his conversations with Ophelia.

Admirable

Daughter, Ophelia and his son, Leartes, admire him. When Polonius dies, it causes Ophelia to go mad and eventually die and on the other hand, when Leartes finds out about his father’s death he swears vengeance against Hamlet.

Hypocritical

Polonius is a hypocrite, he made Ophelia break off her relationship with Hamlet. As he did not think that Hamlet cared enough about Ophelia, but when Hamlet shows that he does care about Ophelia, he calls Hamlet “mad.”

Two faced

Polonius is two faced because it is assumed that he was loyal to the late King Hamlet, the Queen and Hamlet but as the King Hamlet dies, Polonius becomes loyal to the fatal and deceiving King Claudius. Polonius declares his loyalty to Claudius, the new King when he says, “I assure my good liege, I hold my duty as I hold my soul, both to God and to my gracious king…” (II.ii.43-45).

Polonius’ death by Hamlet causes Claudius to fear for his own life, Ophelia to go mad and Leartes to seek revenge, which leads to the duel in the final act. In the play, Polonius is the first character to die as his plan backfires to cause his death.  Ophelia and Leartes being the children are caused great grief by their father’s death, King Claudius is the most effected as he then finds Hamlet a threat and orders him to go to England with Guildenstern and Rosencrantz.  The King says, “The present death of Hamlet. Do it, England” (IV.iii.69)

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