Hamlet Act Two: Spies and Manipulators

In a posting that is approximately two to three hundred words and contains two quotations from the play, discuss your impression (thus far) of ONE of the following questions:  1.)  Do you think Polonius is justified in his manipulation of Ophelia?  2.)  What do you make of Ophelia’s reaction to her father, versus Laertes?  3.)  What is your interpretation of Claudius’ plan to employ Rosencrantz and Guildenstern as spies?  4.)  What do you make of Polonius’ plan to spy on his son, Laertes?  5.)  What do you make of Hamlet’s famous line “I could be bounded in a nut-shell”?  Is his mindset at the beginning of Act Two consistent with what we’ve seen from Act One?  Please note that using the internet or other sources will ensure you receive an automatic zero; this posting is YOUR interpretation, and yours alone.  Just use your text and your own insight.

Note that a response of two to three hundred words means that your response needs to be succinct YET detailed.  (You will be receiving up to 15 marks on this posting:  10 for detail, including two properly cited quotations; 5 for spelling, grammar, and thoughtfulness.)  Remember that your deadline (one that is a stringent one) is Thursday, March 29th at midnight.  (That means that a 12:01 posting is late!)


~ by Ms. Cox on March 24, 2012.

29 Responses to “Hamlet Act Two: Spies and Manipulators”

  1. I do think Polonius is justified in his manipulation of Ophelia. This is because I think Polonius truly believes that Ophelia should not see Hamlet anymore because he is acting crazy as a result of his love for Ophelia. In act 2, scene 1 Ophelia enters Polonius’ house acting all frightened and distraught. She says, “My lord, as I was sewing in my chamber, Lord Hamlet, with his doublet all unbraced, No hat upon his head, his stockings foul’d, Ungarter’d, and down-gyved to his ancle: Pale as his shirt, his knees knocking each other, And with a look so piteous in purport, As if he had been loosed out of hell To speak of horrors, he comes before me” (Shakespeare, 87). In this quotation Ophelia is telling Polonius that she was frightened of Hamlet because he was not acting normal. He was not dressed as he usually is, his jacket was undone, he was not wearing a hat and his stockings were down to his ankles. Ophelia also says, “He took me by the wrist and held me hard… At last, a little shaking of mine arm, And thrice his head thus waving up and down, He raised a sigh so piteous and profound That it did seem to shatter all his bulk And end his being…” (Shakespeare, 87). I believe Polonius is justified in his manipulation of Ophelia because Ophelia is telling him how Hamlet is acting crazy, and not himself. I think this gives Polonius a right to be concerned about Hamlets actions and his daughter’s wellbeing. Polonius is only looking out for her, and telling her what he thinks about Hamlet from what she has shared about his behavior.

  2. What do you make of Ophelia’s reaction to her father, versus Laertes?
    When Laertes approaches Ophelia about her relationship with Hamlet he addresses the subject in an insulting way. Laertes says:

    Then weigh what loss your honour may sustain,
    If with too credent ear you list his songs,
    Or lose your heart, or your chaste treasure open
    To his unmastered importunity. (1.3.33-36)

    Here Laertes is telling Ophelia to care of her virginity, because Hamlet isn’t the right guy. Her reaction to him is more disrespectful then how she responds to her father. Ophelia tells Laertes to take his own advice before telling her what to do. Him being her older brother though she tells him she’ll consider what he’s saying. In response to when Polonius asks her to stop talking to Hamlet, Ophelia is more open minded to what her father has to say. Polonius treats Ophelia like a little girl when he says “Affection? Pooh! You speak like a green girl” (1.3.100). She tries to retort and explain her and Hamlets love, but Polonius shuts down ever comment she has. Polonius having a forceful attitude towards this subject eventually makes Ophelia believe in what her father is telling her. It seems Ophelia doesn’t believe her love with Hamlet is strong because she helps her father in exploiting Hamlets madness to the King and Queen. When Ophelia gives her father the love letters Hamlet sent her she is showing her weakness. Ophelia’s reaction to her father, in comparison to her reaction to her brother, is much different. When Laertes tries to convince her to stop seeing Hamlet she isn’t convinced that what he is saying is true. Polonius on the other hand has a much stronger impact on her and after some convincing she agrees to stop seeing Hamlet.

  3. Polonius’ plan to spy on his son, Laertes in my opinion is deceiving and shows the level of trust that he has in his son. When he summons Reynaldo to go to Wittenberg to spy on Laertes, Polonius tells him exactly what to say, word for word, if he is going to be this exact with his wording then why he didn’t just go himself is in question for me. Polonius gives a list to Reynaldo “or drinking, fencing, swearing, quarrelling, Drabbing: you may go so far” (2.1.25-26) of all the things that he thinks that Laertes may do, showing how little trust he has in his son. By sending Reynaldo with packages for Laertes, Polonius is covering up the fact that he is spying on his own son, and by covering it up he is deceiving his son. Even though he is deceiving his son he justifies himself with “by indirections find directions out” (2.1.66). By saying this, to me it seems like he is trying to convince himself that it is ok to do this. Either way, I believe that the way he is going about spying on his son is deceiving and shows that he has no trust in his son. He is trying to protect his name but is going about it the wrong way.

  4. 4.) What do you make of Polonius’ plan to spy on his son, Laertes?

    So far, I’ve found Polonius to be a very interesting character. He seems to be concerned with every other person’s business, and he has proven to be very sneaky and manipulative. In Act 1 scene 3, Polonius gives Laertes some words of advice before his departure. The things he says lead readers to believe that Polonius is simply a caring father who only wishes the best for his son: “This above all: to thine own self be true,” (1.3. 78) But then, at the beginning of Act 2, we see a change in Polonius’ character. He is shown to be more manipulative and distrusting when he sends Reynaldo to Paris to spy on Laertes. I found this very shocking because in a way, Polonius is going against his own words to Laertes about staying true to oneself. Polonius doesn’t trust that Laertes will listen and follow his wise advice; instead, he believes that only faults come along with too much freedom, “That’s not my meaning: but breathe his faults so quaintly that they may seem the taints of liberty,” (2.1. 31-32) I think that Polonius is also shown to be very cruel when he demands Reynaldo to, “Let him ply his music,” (2.1. 73) meaning that he wants Reynaldo to simply observe his sons behaviour. He wants him to let Laertes do what he wishes, to make mistakes, but for Reynaldo not to correct his faults. I have one question: who would ever do this to their own son? Overall, I am excited to see what will happen with Polonius as the book goes on!

  5. 3) What is your interpretation of Claudius’ plan to employ Rosencrantz and Guildenstern as spies?

    Claudius’ personality traits can be determined by his choice to send for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, however; there are many possible motives for his choice. Claudius makes swift decisions, just as Oedipus Rex does. Claudius is also willing to accept help from others if it means completion of the task; similarly Oedipus Rex accepts help from Tiresias. Claudius is portrayed as confident because he is able to make quick decisions and ask for help when necessary.

    One possibility for Claudius’ decision to call Rosencrantz and Guildenstern is that Claudius is suspicious of Hamlet’s madness and fearful that Hamlet may know that Claudius killed Hamlet Sr. His suspicion is portrayed when he says, “What it should be / More than his father’s death, that thus hath put him so much from the understanding of himself” (2.2. 8-10). Claudius hints that he knows that Hamlet is upset about more than his father’s death. Claudius could have asked Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to investigate because he was suspicious that Hamlet knew more than he was letting on.

    My second thought is that Claudius is still concerned with his popularity as king. In the first scene of Act 1, Claudius gained popularity by expressing his grief for his brother’s death, thanking the people for approving his quick marriage and smoothing over a military discrepancy. He has to maintain his popularity and in order to do so; he expresses compassion for Hamlet, just as he did over Hamlet Sr.’s death. In order to appear compassionate, he employs Rosencrantz and Guildenstern as spies to discover what troubles Hamlet. He makes it seem like Hamlet being troubled is a great concern to him, in order to keep popularity from the people.

    Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are referred to as one person in the play, and are both honest and loyal. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern speak for each other and speak as one person. Guildenstern agrees to spy on Hamlet and speaks for Rosencrantz, he states, “But we both obey, and here give up ourselves, in the full bent” (2.2. 29-30). Claudius appears to have good intentions by asking Hamlet’s friends to uncover the truth, however; if Rosencrantz and Guildenstern have known Hamlet for so long, Claudius and Gertrude would have also known them as well. Likewise Claudius and Gertrude would have known that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are loyal and unable to lie to their friends.

    The previous knowledge that Claudius and Gertrude have on Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’s personality makes me wonder if Claudius sent for the friends to fake sympathy towards Hamlet, or if he truly thought that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern would be able to deceive Hamlet to discover the truth. If he assumed that they could deceive Hamlet, he probably underestimated Hamlet’s intelligence. His underestimation of Hamlet could be the fatal flaw that leads to his death later on in the play.

    Claudius appears to be confident in his quick decisions but it is not clear if Claudius has called on Rosencrantz and Guildenstern because he is suspicious of Hamlet, or if has called on them to keep his popularity. It is also unknown if Claudius truly believes that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are capable of being spies and discovering the truth or if he only calls on them to fool the people into believing that he cares for Hamlet. The only thing that is certain is that Claudius is a brilliant manipulator because even the audience is unsure what his true intentions are.

  6. What do you make of Hamlet’s famous line “I could be bounded in a nut-shell”? Is his mindset at the beginning of Act Two consistent with what we’ve seen from Act One?

    Based on Hamlet’s speeches, I think that Hamlet’s mindset is consistent at the beginning of Act Two with his behaviour in Act One. Early in the play Hamlet shows signs of madness and depression particularly in his first soliloquy when he says, “His canon ‘gainst self-slaughter! God! O God! / How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable / Seem to me all the use of this world!” (1.2. 132-134). ). Madness means to be disturbed and consumed by a thought to the point of frantic behaviour. Hamlet is disturbed by his dissatisfaction with life. He describes his life and all its aspects as having no meaning which is ironic considering he is a well-educated scholar and heir to the throne of Denmark. Hamlet is dissatisfied with his life for the same reason Olympic medalists are often depressed (Mr. Perron). Olympic medalists have achieved more success than anyone in their field, similar to Hamlet’s high education and abundance of possessions. Despite their success, Olympic medalists are often dissatisfied and unhappy, similar to Hamlet’s dissatisfaction.

    Hamlet’s madness becomes more evident after he meets the ghost. This encounter mentally disturbs him and his promise to get revenge on Claudius consumes him. He continually debates the meaning of life and happiness. In Act Two Hamlet contemplates life when he says, “O God, I could be bounded in a nut-shell, and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams” (2.2. 254-256). Hamlet is saying that he could live without the riches, glory and respect that come with being the prince and still find happiness if it wasn’t for the torment of his mind. His philosophy seems to be that one’s mindset determines whether a situation is good or bad, not the physical situation. Hamlet’s mind is consumed and tormented by the promise of revenge on Cladius that he makes to his father’s ghost. As a result, Hamlet is unable to live happily despite his excellent socioeconomic situation. Bound by torment, Hamlet seems to believe that if he were bound by the limitations of poverty with a free and un-tormented mind, he could find happiness.

  7. I interpret Hamlet’s nutshell line as a comment on how ignorance is bliss. He takes the idea to the extreme, implying that the only thing that would stop him from believing that he is the king of infinite space is his own thoughts or “dreams”. This idea is further reinforced when Hamlet says : “Why, then, ‘tis none to you: for there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so: to me it is a prison” (Shakespeare 109). Hamlet states that Denmark is a only prison for him as everyone else is ignorant to whatever is troubling him.
    Hamlet reveals at the end of scene 2 the reason that he is troubled, accusing himself to be a “John-a-dreams, unpregnant of my cause”, a “coward” who cannot avenge his father (Shakespeare 125). This is very different from the Hamlet in act 1, who is filled with hate for Claudius and eager to act. Eventually, nearing the end of his soliloquy, he talks himself into the vengeful state similar to act 1. The only difference at this point is that this time Hamlet has meditated a plan, which is different than the previous heat-of-the-moment anger.

  8. 4.) What do you make of Polonius’ plan to spy on his son, Laertes?

    Polonius has the right to be worried about his son going off to school as any father would, but he is crossing a line by sending Reynaldo to go spy on Laertes. Laertes is not a little kid in need of constant supervision, and there is a big difference between Polonius worrying about his son, and Polonius invading Laertes’ privacy. Polonius tells Reynaldo to find Danes in Paris and learn “where they keep, what company, at what expense, and finding by this encompassment and drift of question, that they do know my son” (Act 2, Sc 1, Ln 8-11). Reynaldo will be spying on Laertes by finding out who his friends are and questioning them. If Polonius really wanted to know what his son was doing, the respectful, honest thing to do would be to ask his son himself. Instead, Polonius goes behind his son’s back and tries to invade Laertes privacy by indirectly asking other people about what Laertes is doing.
    Furthermore, Polonius takes it a step farther and tells Reynaldo to say, “‘I know [Laertes’] father, and his friends, and, in part, him…not well but, if’t be he I mean, he’s very wild…’and there put on him what forgeries you please” (Act 2, Sc 1, Ln 14-20). Polonius is going to try to get information out of Laertes’ friends by having Reynaldo lie about Laertes. For example, Polonius wants Reynaldo to imply Laertes loves things like gaming, drinking, quarrelling and drabbing in order to see if his friends will agree and confirm that Laertes all of those things while at school. It’s disgusting that Polonius has so little trust in his son and goes about his plan to figure out what Laertes is doing in such a sneaky way. Not only does Polonius do the wrong thing by spy on his son, but Polonius does this by spreading “dishonouring” rumours about Laertes.

  9. What do you make of Polonius’ plan to spy on his son, Laertes?
    Polonius’ plan to spy on his son Laertes shows cold calculation and a razor sharp cunning, as well as a heavy prioritization of his interests over everything else in his life. Polonius holds a powerful position in the royal court of Denmark, and it brings with it a certain degree of danger. It is at the top of the economical food chain in monarch states, and the majority of the population would do almost anything to be raised to it. If a member of the court were to show weakness, be dishonoured or in some other way demonstrate unfitness or instability in their position, they would find themselves ejected, usurped or murdered very quickly. In that sense, Polonius’ plan shows a wisdom brought by experience and coldness almost requisite of someone in his position. If anyone is to climb the political ladder to Polonius’ position and face the dangers of the medieval system, he or she must be willing to sacrifice. It is not necessarily their own sacrifice, but they must master their conscious and learn to be devoid of empathy, sympathy and remorse. They must put themselves and their own private interests ahead of everything else in their lives, or suffer dire consequences. Polonius demonstrates that he possesses these situational virtues by his complete willingness to slander and endanger his own son, rather than risk a slight on his honour: “…and there put on him What forgeries you please; marry, none so rank As may dishonor him;” (2.1.19-21). He goes so far as to put the very words in his spy’s mouth, rather than risk his plot on the competence of another, as is evidenced in lines fourteen and fifteen, “As thus, ‘I know his father, and his friends, and, in part, him’; do you mark this, Reynaldo?” (2.1.14-15). In conclusion, Polonius’ plan to spy on his son Laertes explains how he achieved his standing in the court, and demonstrates his extreme prowess in the political games of image and manipulation.

  10.  2.)  What do you make of Ophelia’s reaction to her father, versus Laertes?

    Polonius appears to be a manipulative character with his own agenda to adhere to. He is overly involved in his children’s business and attempts to instill his own opinions with them. In Laertes’ case he offers parting words of advice to his son, and Laertes acknowledges this advice with respect and admiration. Laertes thinks very highly of his father and places a blind trust in him. Both Laertes and Polonius seem to have similar opinions on Ophelia and Hamlet’s relationship and are similar characters, whereas Ophelia is more doubtful of her father. When her brother offers up his advice she quickly dismisses it, but when her father orders her to sever all ties with Hamlet and bring him her personal letters she does. This shows a level of respect and obligation to her father. She also admits she does not know how to act, “I do not know what I should think” (I,III,104). Ophelia does not automatically trust what her father says. She understands what he wants from her but does not accept it. She questions his judgement but plays the role of the dutiful daughter and sister, “ ‘Tis in my memory lock’d. and you yourself shall keep key of it” (I,III,85-86). Both Ophelia and Laertes act respectfully towards Polonius, yet Ophelia is not so quick to assume his advice is for the best. She makes up her own mind but listens to her father. Ophelia is a more independent character and hears what her father is saying but chooses what to act on.

  11. From Jessica:

    I believe Polonius spying on Laertes is understandable to a point.  Polonius however takes it much too far and instead of coming across as caring and curious about his son, he comes across as underhanded and simply rude.  His son has been trusted to go back to France, so it is understandable that Polonius may still want to keep an eye on him or know what he is getting up to.  One problem with Polonius is he is sending Reynaldo, but he might as well be going himself.  He continuously gives Reynaldo the exact words to say, literally putting words in his mouth.  Polonius says “Take you, as ’twere, some distant knowledge of him,/ As thus ‘I know his father, and his friends,/ And, in part, him’; do you mark this, Reynaldo?” (II.i.13-15).  The fact that he is sending someone to spy on his son is not enough, he is telling the spy he has employed exactly how to find out information.  In with telling Reynaldo exactly how to spy, Polonius tells Reynaldo to spread lies about Laertes.  Polonius condones Reynaldo saying that Laertes is a gambler, or a drinker, or even that he visits prostitutes.  Polonius is willing to trash the reputation of his own son just to find out information.  Even Reynaldo, who is willing to travel to Paris to spy on Laertes, questions Polonius on the spreading of lies.  Reynaldo is taken aback with Polonius’ suggestion, as shown when he says “My Lord, that would dishonour him” (II.i.27).  Even the man who agreed to be employed to go spy for information about Laertes does not like the idea of saying that Laertes commits all of these sins.  Polonius however just brushes it off and says that it is alright.  Essentially Polonius is saying that the ends justify the means.  This however is very underhanded and sneaky.  Morally it is incorrect and if Laertes is ever to find out about what his father has done it can be imagined he will be very, rightfully, angry.

  12. 2.) What do you make of Ophelia’s reaction to her father, versus Laertes?

    Ophelia reacts quite differently to both Laertes and Polonius, though in reality she has a similar feeling towards both of their suggestions. Laertes claims that because Hamlet is still young the love is not true as he says, “Forward, not permanent, sweet, not lasting, The perfume and suppliance of a minute, no more.” (1.3. 7-9). He then goes on to tell Ophelia that she should leave him because of this and not do sexual things with him. She reacts by saying she will remember what he said. By saying this she is not agreeing to what he says. She also tells Laertes that he is not leading by example. These two parts of her reaction show that she does not care what her brother has to say as he is not a good role model in this area. On the other hand Polonius has the same general message, that the signs of affection that Hamlet continues to show are not real. He then goes on to suggest to Ophelia that she should spend less time with him and make herself harder to get with so that she is more appreciated. She then answers by simply saying, “I shall obey, my lord.” (1.3. 136) This can be interpreted in two ways. The first is that she is planning to and agrees with what he has to say. The second, and more likely reasoning behind this line is that has gotten fed up with all these suggestions and is simply agreeing to get the conversation to stop. She may continue to think about his message but she is not going to have her opinion on the man she claims to love changed this quickly. In reality the only difference between her thoughts on the suggestions from the two different men is that she did not want to argue with her father, but her opinion on both is the same, that they are wrong.

  13. March 29, 2012 Natalie Istanboulian

    Hamlet Act Two: Spies and Manipulators

    2) What do you make of Ophelia’s reaction to her father, versus Laertes?

    Many people respond to advice differently, depending on who is giving the advice. In Ophelia’s case, Polonius, her father, and Laertes, her brother, both give her reasons to stop seeing Hamlet — she responds differently to each person. In Act 1, Scene 3, Ophelia is having a conversation with Laertes about Hamlet. She states that Hamlet has “importuned [Ophelia] with love in honourable fashion” (1.3.110-111), and now she is questioning her love for him. Laertes attempts explaining to his sister that Hamlet cannot “carve for himself” (1.3.20), meaning that he cannot change his future. Hamlet’s decisions cannot be his own, for Denmark will depend on his actions. Ophelia hears what Laertes is saying, but chooses not to listen. She decides that he should not be telling her what to do and not “show [her] the steep and thorny way to heaven” (1.3.48), while he does not even follow his own advice. Ophelia’s response to her brother shows that she is feisty and is standing up for herself. She is quick to respond to Laertes and uses his own actions against him; however, this is not the case when she speaks to her father. When Polonius talks to Ophelia about Hamlet, she insists him that Hamlet loves her, and she loves him. In response to pressure from Polonius, she chooses to obey her father. In Act 2, after Hamlet frightens Ophelia in her room, the audience sees her seeking some more advice from her father, which shows that she trusts him. Ophelia informs Polonius that she did “repel [Hamlet’s] letters, and denied his access to [her]” (1.3.110-111), as he had told her to do. Ophelia choosing to obey her father shows that she has more respect for him than she does for Laertes. Ophelia appears to be listening to her father; however, this act may not be true and seeking his advice may be a scheme. When speaking with Laertes, Ophelia seemed too passionate to give up on her love for Hamlet so quickly. Polonius trusts Ophelia and believes that she will stop speaking with Hamlet, nonetheless, this might be because Ophelia has never lied to Polonius before, and thus he has never had a reason to not trust her. Ophelia appears to be well respected; however, her lies may bring about her own downfall. Will Ophelia become a tragic figure?

  14. 1.) Do you think Polonius is justified in his manipulation of Ophelia?

    Polonius is justified in his manipulation of Ophelia because he is concerned and cares about his daughter’s feelings. Polonius tells Ophelia to “tender herself more dearly” (i.iii.107), meaning that she does not have enough self-respect. He wants her to realize that Hamlet is not interested in being in the serious, long-term relationship she wants with him. Polonious also believes that Hamlet is lovesick because of Ophelia. It is shown that Polonius cares for Ophelia’s well-being and heart when tells her to “set her entreatments at a higher rate than a command to parley” (i.iii.122-123), meaning that she must play hard to get to be sure that he is interested.

    Polonius also justifies his manipulation of Ophelia when he says “there, my blessing with thee. And these few precepts in thy memory. Look thou Character. Give thy thoughts no tongue…etc.,” (i.iii.57-59). Polonius gives Ophelia at least fifteen pieces of advice to help her in life which shows that he is serious about looking out for his daughter.

  15. Polonius uses Ophelia, for his own fulfilment, giving her some ‘advice’; he attempts to explain to her that she does not understand her feelings; “You do not understand yourself so clearly” (Shakespeare 49). After he has offended her integrity, he then tells her that it is Hamlets fault. He goes on to say Ophelia is too gullible; “do you believe his tenders, as you call them?” ” (Shakespeare 49). Polonius messes with her head, to force her to review her faiths. Her father knows she will remain loyal to him. He attempts to ‘drive his opinion home’ by infecting her mind with false direction of her emotions, telling her that what she if feeling are shallow emotions that don’t last long, they don’t build lasting relationships. Ophelia reacts by simply claiming obedience. She knows that her father is relentless and is aware of this persuasiveness. Ophelia acts as the ‘perfect child’ saying yes and going with her father’s wishes, for now.
    Polonius’ persuasions are on a similar page to what Laertes counselled to her, but on a different level. Laertes has the metaphorical upper hand, being that he is first to confront Ophelia on these matters, being that Laertes is much more gentle, he is level ground with his sister. From this she can have faith in his honesty. He tells her that she should be more cautious; saying that Hamlets could be playing with her emotions “For Hamlet, and the trifling of his favour, hold it a fashion, and a toy in blood” (Shakespeare 45). She is quite intrigued and accepts this new point of view with an open mind. She does not much react or attempt to defend Hamlets honour (probably why she reacted so much more after hearing it a second time from Polonius) but instead defends her ability to make the correct decisions.
    After first listening to Laertes she defends her integrity to make her own decisions while her brother is away, but when she if confronted with much the same basis from her father, reacts and defends Hamlet, and proclaims their love to be true. This could directly show how she trusts both Polonius’ and Laertes’ opinions, and how seriously she takes their criticisms.

  16. 2. What do you make of Ophelia’s reaction to her father, versus Laertes?

    From Ophelia’s response to the advice of Polonius, her elderly father and of Laertes, her brother, we can learn how Ophelia regards the two.
    To Ophelia, Laertes is an elder figure who cannot always be trusted or obeyed. Because Laertes does not offer any vital supports to Ophelia and because they are the same age, Laertes has little authority over her.
    Polonius, on the other hand, is Ophelia’s master and support. He is not only her father, but the head of the family. His high-ranking role in the Danish courts surely provides much income and respect for his family. If Polonius’ reputation was tarnished in any way, his family’s (and consequently, Ophelia’s) reputation and wealth would be ruined. It is in Ophelia’s best interests to respect and obey Polonius.
    Her replies also exhibit how Ophelia interprets Polonius’ and Laertes’ persuasion techniques.
    Polonius uses offensive metaphors and abrasive language against both Ophelia and her lover, Hamlet, to make his point. He calls Ophelia naive, “Affection! Pooh, you speak like a green girl,/Unsifted in such perilous circumstance” (1.3.101-102) and compares Hamlet’s affections to prostitutes: “they are brokers/Not of that dye which their investments show,/But mere implorators of unholy suits,/Breathing like sanctified and pious bawds” (1.3.127-130).
    Laertes, however, dispenses his advice in a neutral and even complimentary tone. He respects Ophelia’s intelligence by asking her to consider his ideas instead of just accepting them, “Then weigh what loss your honour may sustain” (1.3.29) and recognizing her ability to see past Hamlet’s deceipt “It fits your wisdom so far to believe it” (1.3.25).
    By the end of the scene, Ophelia verbalizes her respect and loyalty to Polonius, “I shall obey, my lord” (1.3.136) while, in obvious contrast, she expresses her unwillingness to follow Laertes’ advice: “I shall the effect/of this good lesson keep” (1.3.45-46). This demonstrates that Ophelia sees Polonius as a venerable figure whose malignities command even more respect. On the contrary, Ophelia cannot respect the courteous tone, low status, and monetary worthlessness of Laertes.

  17. 4.) What do you make of Polonius’ plan to spy on his son, Laertes?

    I think that it is the character of Polonius more than anything else that makes him decide to spy on his son. We see in the play that Laertes is returning to Paris to continue his studies. When Polonius becomes aware of this, he sends a man named Reynaldo to spy on his son. There is not much evidence to show that he has a good purpose to do so; Laertes is not a key player in the developments in Denmark. I believe that the real reason Reynaldo is asked to spy on Laertes is because Polonius wants to have control and knowledge over anything he can find. This fact is also apparent in his attempt to control the romantic life of his daughter: “I would not, in plain terms, from this time forth, / Have you so slander any moment’s leisure, / As to give words or talk with the lord Hamlet” (1.3.132-134). Another indication that Polonius is simply spying on his son, but with no intent of furthering the espionage is that he does not tell Reynaldo to do anything with the information that he will be gathering. He does not even expressly ask for him to report back, and he most certainly would have clarified had he wanted actions taken upon the doings of his son. “Let him ply his music” (2.1.73) translated into modern English is literally “let him do as he pleases”. I believe that Polonius simply wants insight into his son and his habits for future use.

  18. Hamlet Question
    Kyle Hemphill
    I think Polonius is sending Reynaldo to spy on Laertes because he doesn’t trust him to be on his own. I get this because Polonius tells Reynaldo to look for any Danes in France and suggest that Laertes has bad habits. “Ay, or drinking, fencing, swearing, quarreling, drabbing: you may go so far” (II, i, 83). He wants Reynaldo to suggest to these people that Laertes does bad things and if they agree then they have obviously seen him do something bad. My interpretation of this is that he thinks his son is going to waste his time partying and gambling and what not. This shows that Polonius has trust issues since he can’t trust his own son to behave properly while in France. This may also suggest that Laertes has been known to do some of these things on a regular basis, so Polonius may be justified in his suspicions. Also Laertes was quite eager to get back to France since he basically just got home and then asked Claudius if he could return to France. “My dear lord, your leave and favour to return to France, from whence though willingly I came to Denmark, to show my duty in your coronation” (I, ii, 27). Why would Laertes wish to return to France so quickly? Maybe this is what prompted Polonius to get Reynaldo to spy on Laertes. Polonius could possibly want answers as to what Laertes is doing in France. “Observe his inclination in yourself” (II, I, 87). This again shows Polonius’ untrustworthiness by saying that even after you ask around and listen to what people have seen him do you must go see it for yourself. I believe that the purpose of this spying is because Polonius has trust issues and he wants to know what Laertes is really up to in France.

  19. Ophelia shows great respect to her father and does what she is asked to do. However, it is not the same with Laertes. Although she demonstrates respect towards him, she also shows her doubt. This occurs when Laertes is giving advice to Ophelia about the relationship between her and Hamlet. Laertes gives his advice but also makes fun of her at the same time by telling her, “Virtue itself ‘scapes not calumnious strokes” (1. 3.38). He tells Ophelia that if she gives her heart to Hamlet, then she will be the one who will be publicly humiliated. Ophelia replies by telling him that she will keep his lesson in mind, but it doesn’t mean she will be acting upon it. Later, Polonius gives his opinion on the same matter. His opinion goes head-to-head with Laertes, but Ophelia listens to his words more carefully then she did Laertes. This shows more respect to her father, because he is a high figure and probably knows more than Laertes would. Polonius also treats Ophelia like she is a small child who doesn’t know anything, but Ophelia tries to show that she knows what she is doing. She tells Polonius that Hamlet has presented his love like a proper gentleman, “My lord, he hath importuned me with love in most honourable fashion” (1. 3. 110-111). In the end Polonius disregards this and tells her to be careful around Hamlet. Ophelia replies by telling him she will obey him. This is the opposite of Laertes where she said she will keep his lesson in mind, but won’t act on it. This shows how Ophelia is an example of a dutiful daughter.

  20. 2.) What do you make of Ophelia’s reaction to her father, versus Laertes?

    As we saw in act 1, scene 3, Ophelia does not have full trust in her brother, Laertes, when talking about her love for Hamlet. Laertes tells her to be careful around Hamlet and warns her that he may be taking advantage of her vulnerability and does not truly love her. Ophelia insists that her brother should not be worried about her in saying, “Do not…show me the steep and thorny way to heaven” (1. 3. 47-48). In response to her father however, Ophelia asks for his advice on her relationship with Hamlet and is obedient upon his request to stay away from him. It is interesting to see this obedience continue in act 2, scene 1 of the play. Ophelia comes to Polonius and tells him about how Hamlet has gone mad. By coming to her father, Ophelia shows that she is more trustworthy of his words as opposed to her brother’s. Ophelia shows her loyalty and obedience from act 1 to act 2: “I shall obey, my lord.” (1. 3. 136) and “…as you did command, I did repel his letters and denied his access to me.” (2. 1. 109-111). It is also interesting to see that Ophelia comes to her father instead of Laertes when Hamlet has gone mad. Even though Laertes originally warned Ophelia, she decided to seek help from her father. It is curious in that Laertes gave more warning and advice for Ophelia while Polonius gave her commands. Through Ophelia’s actions and reactions to both their points of view, it is evident that Polonius holds power over Ophelia, and, in Ophelia’s eyes, Laertes’ opinion is irrelevant and unimportant. Perhaps her decision to obey her father proves what Laertes was saying all along: she is young, naive, and vulnerable.

  21. 2.) What do you make of Ophelia’s reaction to her father, versus Laertes?

    This scene shows the amount of persuasion that Polonius has. Ophelia has just finished listening to her brother, who seem legitimately worried about her, tell her the exact same thing that her father says, yet she initially brushed aside the advice from Laertes. Both men attempt to tell Ophelia that all is not what it seems, a key theme throughout the play. I believe that there may be a sibling rivalry between Laertes and Ophelia. She says she will not take Laertes’ advice because he is a hypocrite “Do not, as some ungracious pastors do, Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven, Whilst, like a puff’d and reckless libertine, Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads And recks not his own rede” (1.3, 50-54). We know that Laertes is a ladies man who has been sleeping around and he tells Ophelia that he does not want her to do the same; however, he may just be jealous that she has found someone who truly loves her and he does not have anyone like this and wishes to destroy her relationship with Hamlet. When the advice is spoken by Polonius it is more sincere. He, like most fathers, does not want his daughter, his innocent little girl, to be running off with a man. He tells her that she does not know what true love is and that Hamlet’s supposed offers are false “you have ta’en these tenders for true pay, Which are not sterling” (1.3, 112-113). The only difference in her reactions is the way she responds more respectfully towards her father. Ophelia agrees to listen to her father’s advice but whether she will actually obey or not is still questionable.

  22. 4.) What do you make of Polonius’ plan to spy on his son, Laertes?

    I find it curious that Polonius is taking such an interest in his childrens’ lives to such a destructive degree. In order to fulfil some plans of his own making, he has chosen to end his daughter’s relationship out of an unproven suspicion that Hamlet is untrustworthy and using his daughter, and he’s also risking his son’s honour by having Reynaldo spread lies about Laertes, as said here: “And there put on him / What forgeries you please; marry, none so rank / As may dishonour him; take heed of that” (II,i,19-21). My main point of interest is what he hopes to gain by spying on Laertes using such an unorthodox method, since tarnishing another man’s honour was a terrible crime during the period this play occurs in. The only reason for Polonius to work through this plan would be if the ends justify the means, which he does believe as shown in the following: “And I believe it is a fetch of warrant: / You laying these slight sullies on my son” (II,i,38-39). Since the means entail risking Laertes’s credibility, his plan seems to be incredibly important to him, in some unknown way. Extending on this theory, the narrow-minded view of a successful male human life is hinged on having three requirements: money, power, and women. However, I fail to see how risking his son’s reputation gets him laid, or makes him money, so he’s most likely after power, and he believes that he has something to gain by spying on his son. This suggests that there is some information about Laertes that has not been released to us, likely some information that increases his importance in the play.

  23. What do you make of Polonius’ plan to spy on his son, Laertes?

    As shown through his actions Polonius appears to be a very intrusive character thus far in Hamlet. As a result of ordering Reynaldo to spy on his son, the audience is indirectly told many things about Polonius’ character. Some of the traits he reveals are his dishonesty and intrusiveness. This plan he concocts to spy on Laertes with seems perfect as he explains it with enthusiasm; however, no good can come from lies.

    The route Polonius chooses to take to find the truth about his son is dishonest in nature. The proceeding exert shows how Polonius believes his plan will work, “See you now,/Your bait of falsehood takes this carp of truth” (2. 1. 62-63). He explains to Reynaldo that lies will bring the truth. This method of extracting the truth is deceitful. Polonius is trying to find out what he desires by any means necessary. The untruths he tells Reynaldo to feed into people’s ears are still lies nonetheless. An untrue word regarding Polonius’ family is still being spoken which, in itself is not fit for his reputation which he holds so dearly. If his intention is to protect his family name he is doing a poor job. He is the cause of deceitful lies being spread about his son all because, he is too concerned with his children’s actions.

    Laertes is studying in France, which is miles away from Polonius. His meddlesome actions are questionable. If Laertes is so far away in France, why would his actions affect Polonius back in Denmark? Why must he send Reynaldo to snoop in the first place? Polonius shows his intrusive demeanor in the proceeding extract, “So by my former lecture and advice/Shall you my son” (2. 1. 67-68). In this quote Polonius confirms that Reynaldo will find out what Laertes is currently doing in France. Polonius has a strong desire for information on his children as has been shown when he talks to Ophelia about Hamlet. His plan to spy is nothing more than a controlling father’s action. His desire for information will undoubtedly lead him to trouble.

  24. 2.) What do you make of Ophelia’s reaction to her father, versus Laertes?

    Ophelia’s loyalty and subservience is to her father and brother, meaning she has to heed their advice and obey their orders. In act two, both her father and brother take it upon themselves to advise her on the matter of her relationship with Hamlet, the gist of which being they don’t believe Hamlet’s intentions towards her are honourable and she should put an end to her relationship with him. The two give different reasons for this diagnosis, and present their arguments in different ways: Laertes reminding her that as prince, Hamlet is required to marry whomever is deemed best for the kingdom (“his will is not his own”) and moreover, that his affection for her is more likely than not puppy love and the horniness of youth, telling her this just as he departs, cool as a cucumber and almost objectively, while Polonius approaches the subject from as condescending a view as possible, telling his daughter the fact of the matter is that Hamlet’s only interested in a bit of fun (getting into her pants) and that it is only because she is so young and naïve that she mistook it for real love before commanding her to quit seeing Hamlet, for the good of the family honour (Act I, scene iii). In response to Laertes’s advice, Ophelia replies that she “shall the effect of this good lesson keep,” but reminds her brother that he’s a hypocrite for saying this when he swans around bedding loose women. From this I can draw that Ophelia is sensible, not blinded by her assumed love for Hamlet, because she doesn’t try to deny that Hamlet would ever do that to her, etc. etc., and agrees to be cautious. To her father, she replies with a quick, “I shall obey, my lord,” a wildly different reply than the one she shot Laertes (Act I, scene iii). While she listens to her brother, she feels confident enough, or perhaps justified enough, to show him that she doesn’t obey him thoughtlessly, and also be a bit cheeky. With her father, however, she is meek and obedient. This may be because she has more respect for her father than her brother, but I’m not entirely satisfied with that answer. I haven’t any other ideas though, so that will have to do.

  25. In Act One, Scene Three of Hamlet both Laertes and Polonius try to give advice to Ophelia about her boyfriend, Hamlet. It’s clear Ophelia doesn’t respect what Laertes has to say to her about Hamlet. Whereas, she seems to value the opinion of her father much more. I think her reaction to Laertes advice was appropriate she said “ I shall the effect of this good lesson keep, As watchman to my heart” (1.3, 45-46) She is telling Laertes she will remember his good advice, but says nothing of following it. We know she does not respect his opinion because she goes on to say that he does not follow his own advice. He was also very accusatory about what he thinks Hamlets intentions are, which is not something Ophelia wants to hear because she loves Hamlet very much. When her father, Polonius gives his advice to Ophelia she reacts very differently. She tells her father “I shall obey, my lord” (1.3, 135) I feel she agrees with her father only because it was what was expected of a daughter back then. Her father makes her feel naive and juvenile, invalidating her feelings. Ophelia loses confidence when her father tells her she is stupid and easily falls into Hamlet’s traps, and also tells her she is too young to understand what affection is. The combination of making Ophelia feel inferior and her father being such an important position of influence over her, she succumbs to his manipulation and tells Polonius she shall stay away from Hamlet as he wishes.

  26. At the very beginning of Act 2, we learn that Polonius is asking Reynaldo to spy upon Laertes, but we do not particularly know why. Polonius is extremely specific in his instructions to Reynaldo, even going so far as to give him exact sentences to say – and he does this several times. Furthermore, Polonius also tells Reynaldo to slander his son with accusations of gambling, drinking, quarrelling, etc (Shakespeare 2, 1, 19-25). One wonders, of course, why he would desire to spy on and slander his own progeny; this does not seem the behaviour of a loving father. Polonius hints at his purpose when he says that those “of wisdom and of reach/ … By indirections find directions out” (Shakespeare 2, 1, 64-66). It seems that Polonius does not know what exactly his son might be doing in France, and strongly desires to find out. I believe he might be afraid Laertes’ behaviour might stain the family honour, which we know is something Polonius is very concerned about. For example, when the king tells Polonius he is an honourable person, Polonius responds: “I would fain prove so” (Shakespeare 2, 2, 129). Polonius may also be searching for an excuse to force his son back to court, where he could be kept under his father’s supervision. After all, Polonius was quite reluctant to let his son leave:

    He hath, my lord, wrung from me my slow leave
    By laboursome petition, and at last
    Upon his will I seal’d my hard consent;
    I do beseech you, give him leave to go (Shakespeare 1, 2, 58-61)

    Polonius is very insistent upon his reluctance to let Laertes leave, as he mentions it at least 3 times in his answer to the king. It appears that Polonius may be using Laertes as a pawn in his political games, and is trying to control his movements. Polonius’ sole concern is gaining more power for himself on the political scene, even at the cost of his own children.

  27. 5.) What do you make of Hamlet’s famous line “I could be bounded in a nut-shell”? Is his mindset at the beginning of Act Two consistent with what we’ve seen from Act One?

    In this famous line, Hamlet contradicts his earlier words to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern: “there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so” (2.2.249-50). This indicates that it is the mental state of a person that determines his/her freedom. However, when Hamlet continues thus: “I could be bounded in a nut-shell, and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams” (2.2.254-56), he acknowledges that despite this supposed freedom in thought, there are still aspects of the mind (such as dreams) that we cannot control. As nobody can control his/her dreams, nobody is ever entirely free. Also, what Hamlet means by “bad dreams” is unclear; he may be questioning the ghost’s existence, or lamenting his own weakness.

    This sort of contradiction is very much in character for Hamlet. In Act One he wishes to kill himself, but is prevented by his religion: “That the Everlasting had not fix’d/His canon ‘gainst self-slaughter!’ (1.2.131-32). He also swears to avenge his father’s death, but hesitates to do so. In all three cases, Hamlet is prevented from doing anything that might “free” him due to forces beyond his control. He also remains suicidal, saying flippantly to Polonius that “You cannot, sir, take from me anything that I will more willingly part withal, except my life” (2.2.214-15). It’s no wonder that Hamlet sees Denmark as a prison, as his mind prevents him from being free there (as anywhere), and he suffers emotionally due to both his living mother and his dead father. All of the mental strain on Hamlet could be a reason why Hamlet decides to pretend to be mad: he would likely find it reassuring to feel that he is only pretending.

  28. From Faisal:
    Ophelia, the daughter of Polonius and the sister of Laertes comes to the reader as a nice well-mannered young lady. While conversing to her brother Laertes before he takes off, Laertes emphasizes to his sister that he doesn’t want her to be with Hamlet. She listens to his advice, however we notice her not embarking his words of wisdom. “I shall the effect of this good lesson keep as watchman to my heart. But, good my brother, do not as some ungracious pastors do…” (I.III. 48-54). She understands what he wants her to do, but at the same time she doesn’t get how he is saying this when he does the same as Hamlet. The responses she gives her brother are key, as we realize she doesn’t say I obey, as she does to her father.  Again Ophelia states, “Tis in my memory locked, and you yourself shall keep the key of it” (I. III. 90-91). Whereas when her father Polonius restates Laertes thoughts she takes it more to heart. When Polonius is speaking to her and giving her advice she answers, “I shall obey, my lord” (I.III. 141). There is a difference with her response to her father than to her brother Laertes. Clearly the influence from her father is much greater. Even though we see Polonius as a deceitful and dishounorable man, she listens to him.

  29. The reason for Hamlet’s delay that I find the most possible is his uncertainty of the authenticity of the ghost. It is entirely possible that the “ghost” in the play is in fact a devil that wishes to cause chaos for Hamet and the people of Denmark. While its objective may not be directly linked to killing Hamlet, it may be using him as a tool in its plot. In order to kill Claudius, Hamlet must first eliminate, to the best of his abilities, the possibility that the apparition was not, in fact, a demon or devil.

    The first time that he is told about the ghost, Hamlet is warned by Horatio that it might not be his father, but a devil, attempting to lure him to his death: “What if it tempt you toward the flood, my lord/ Or to the dreadful summit of the cliff … And there assume some other horrible form” (Shakespeare 1.4.69-72). Initially, it seems as though this is not the case, for it tells the truth (to the extent of the knowledge of everyone in the play). It may, however, still be a devil, simply lying in wait for Hamlet to kill Claudius in an act of revenge, and plunge the country of Denmark into a panic. Hamlet considers this possibility, and thus attempts to find a flaw in the “ghost’s” story by throwing a play outlining the ghost’s recount of how Hamlet Sr. died. Finding no flaws in the ghost’s story, he is still hesitant, but does conspire to finally put an end to his Uncle.

    In the play, Polonius, who is a vital asset to the management of Denmark, is killed by Hamlet by accident while hiding behind an arras. If Hamlet were also to succeed in the murder of Claudius, the already crumbling government of Denmark would collapse, leaving it open to infestation from one of its enemy countries. Being at war with Norway, and with Norway’s troops inside of Denmark’s borders, it would be a simple thing for Fortinbras Jr. to seize the throne amidst the political turmoil of two recently dead kings and a prince who is quite possibly insane. While Hamlet may not have thought as thoroughly into the scenario, it is plausible that this was, in fact, the prime objective of the devil disguised as Hamlet Sr. in the very beginning of the play.

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