The characters play important roles in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Each character is unique in his of her contribution to the entire play. Without certain characters, the play would not have the same effect. Polonius is an interesting and complicated character who plays an important part in Hamlet. Although he is not one of the main characters, Polonius serves as the nosy chief counselor to King Claudius. Polonius’s destructive personality and meddling behavior leads to his fatal end. Polonius’s first extended speaking scene is in Act I, Scene 3.
In this scene, Laertes is speaking to his sister Ophelia about Hamlet’s attention towards her. He warns her to protect her virtues. Polonius arrives and reminds his son that he should be on his way to Paris. Right after Laertes leaves, Polonius turns to his daughter and asks her what they were discussing before he entered the room. Although it may be common for a father to be concern with his daughter’s life, Polonius did not act concerned- just ignorant and criticizing. The lack of Polonius’s concern can be read in his responses to Ophelia. Right after she reveals that they were talking about Hamlet, Polonius criticized her.
When Ophelia explains to her father that Laertes was concerned about Hamlet’s “late made many tenders” (1. 3. 108), Polonius just scoffs at the idea of Hamlet being attentive towards her. His words are blunt and unkind. He calls Ophelia a “woodcock” (1. 3. 124), which is a gullible bird. Polonius does not consider his daughter’s feelings for Hamlet. He continues to warn her to conduct herself well so she does not make him appear a fool. He forbids her from seeing Hamlet for the wrong, selfish reasons. In this scene, Polonius’s character displays a selfish nature where he only cares about his image.
His rudeness to his daughter shows that he does not care about her. Instead, he is suspicious that she might ruin his reputation and that Hamlet has the worst intentions for Ophelia. Polonius is selfish, suspicious, and uncaring. The suspicious trait later plays a part in Claudius’s death when he is trying to find out the reason behind Hamlet’s insanity. Polonius is meddling in his son’s life in Act II, Scene 1. Before Laertes departs to Paris, Polonius gave him some last words of advice. Polonius reminds him “thou canst not be false to any man” (1. 3. 83) and “to thine own self be true” (1.3. 84).
Polonius is asking his son to be honorable and virtuous. Polonius is hypocritical for giving his son this advice because he is not trusting of his own son. After his son leaves, he sends Reynaldo to follow Laertes to Paris to find out how he is conducting himself. Polonius does not trust his son and does the dishonorable thing of sending a spy. Why would Polonius give Laertes fatherly advice and still not trust his son? This shows another weakness of Polonius. He cannot learn to trust others. He is a hypocrite for asking his son to be honorable when he cannot listen to his own advice.
Polonius is proven not to be an honorable man and this ironically is how he was killed. Polonius did the unthinkable act of spying and eavesdropping on a private conversation and is killed. If Polonius had listen to his own advice to his son, Polonius would have never mettle in Hamlet’s life and continually spy on him. Polonius’s job is to be King Claudius’s chief counselor. Part of the job description is to help Claudius sort out information and make wise decisions. But there are moments when it seems as though Polonius wants to make the final word, as oppose to letting Claudius make the final decision.
This shows that Polonius likes to meddle in other people’s business, including his own king’s life. Polonius does not let other people live their lives without his words. Being nosy is the reason why Polonius got involved with Hamlet’s sanity issue and leads Polonius to his death later in the play. In Act II, Scene 2, Polonius suggests a reason for Hamlet’s sudden lunacy. He believes the reason is that Ophelia refuses to see Hamlet and that alone has driven Hamlet into madness. Polonius devises a plan where he will let Ophelia talk to Hamlet. During their encounter, Polonius and Claudius will observe the situation from a hidden area.
From this encounter, Polonius ensures Claudius that they will find the true reason for Hamlet’s madness. Polonius’s insensitivity towards Ophelia’s situation is shown when he uses her for his personal plans. He does not take her feelings into consideration and uses her as a prop to impress Claudius. But Polonius’s plan did not please Claudius. After watching the couple interacts, Claudius is now convinced that love is not the cause of Hamlet’s craziness. Dissatisfied that the King did not agree with his theory, Polonius urges one last attempt to find out Hamlet’s secret.
Polonius is desperate to convince the King that his theory is right. Polonius wants to please Claudius, but he also does not want to be wrong. As a counselor, he should be obedient to the King. Instead, he tries to control Claudius by ignoring Claudius’s theory and convinces him to give one last attempt to find the whole truth. Little did he know his last meddling in Hamlet’s life would be a fatal one. Polonius’s life ends tragically. While hiding behind the arras and eavesdropping on Hamlet and Queen Gertrude, Polonius is convinced the truth would be revealed.
Polonius is meddling in Hamlet’s life by getting involved in a situation that has nothing to do with him. During Hamlet’s and Gertrude’s conversation, she is frightened by Hamlet which prompts Polonius to echo a cry out for help. Thinking Polonius was the king, Hamlet thrusts his rapier into the arras and kills him, whom Hamlet describes as a “fool” (3. 4. 38). Even Hamlet recognizes that Polonius’s death is avoidable if only he had stayed out of everyone’s personal business. Polonius’s sudden death is caused by his nosy, meddling ways. He is out to seek the truth about Hamlet and, ironically, is killed by Hamlet.
If Polonius stopped meddling in Hamlet’s life in Act II, Scene 1, he would still be alive to be by the King’s side. Instead, he forces his way into finding secrets that do not involves him and ends up dead. Polonius’s destructive and prying personality is what kills him. Polonius plays an important role in Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. He meddles in other characters’ lives. He also sticks his nose into others’ situations. He is a selfish, suspicious, dishonorable, and nosy. These qualities are destructive and that is why his life ended so tragically. Polonius’s early death foreshadows the other characters’ deaths later in the play.