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I need to write an obituary for Polonius in Hamlet and I am having a hard time with...

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daisyduke1234 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 10, 2011 at 5:51 PM via web

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I need to write an obituary for Polonius in Hamlet and I am having a hard time with this. Can anyone give me any tips or any help?

I need to write an obituary for Polonius in Hamlet and I am having a hard time with this. Can anyone give me any tips or any help?

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted January 10, 2011 at 6:35 PM (Answer #2)

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If I were to have this assignment relating to Shakespeare's play Hamlet, I might first look at a real obituary to get the essence of the material usually included. However, I might write something like:

Polonius, Minister to His Majesty Claudius, King of Denmark, was killed by way of mistaken identity at Elsinore Castle, the palace of King Claudius and his newly wedded wife Gertrude.

A source close to the King, who wishes to remain anonymous, explained that while searching for something in one of the rooms of the palace, Polonius was taken for an intruder and mistakenly stabbed by an unidentified attacker.

Polonius has been serving the royal family of Denmark for a number of years, first for the late King Hamlet who died when bitten by a poisonous snake during his afternoon nap in the garden. His most most recent—and present post—has been serving the newly crowned King Claudius, selected to guide Denmark in face of his brother's untimely death, and his nephew's inexperience and absence.

Polonius, known by all as a man with a gift for language and advice, is survived by his son Laertes, and his daughter Ophelia. Burial was delayed due to unforeseen complications, but has been scheduled for tomorrow in Elsinor's graveyard.

Because of a heightened alert for possible attacks by a Norwegian military in the area, our unidentified source suggests that Polonius may have been mistaken as one of the enemy. God rest his soul.

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted January 10, 2011 at 6:42 PM (Answer #3)

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Hamlet's Polonius is one of the most identifiable of Shakespeare's characters. When writing about him, it is crucial that you identify the characteristics which are most memorable; when writing an obituary about him, it is important that you keep those descriptions positive. For example, if you think one of Polonius's traits is being long-winded (garrulous, excessively talkative, and so on), you must find a way to talk about it in the positive. Perhaps you could say he was never at a loss for words (which is a polite way of saying he never quit talking!). He gives his son advice (which he does not always follow for himself, it seems), he expects obedience from his daughter, he is loyal to the king, among other things. Make a list of his primary characteristics, both positive and negative, and work with them. An obituary celebrates a life, and there is much to celebrate about Polonius.

Lori Steinbach

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sboeman | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted January 10, 2011 at 6:47 PM (Answer #4)

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An obituary can be as simple as a death notice, or it can be expanded to be similar to a eulogy; in this case, I'm assuming you want more than just the facts surrounding his death.

To begin, Polonius seems to be a loyal, trusting companion - he is King Claudius' and Queen Gertrude's advisor and he also seems to be a good father to Laertes and Ophelia.  Basically, everyone seems to like and admire him in this play.

Unfortunately, Polonius meets an untimely death at the hands of Hamlet, who mistakes him for Claudius as he, Polonius, hides behind an arras.  Ophelia goes mad (well, arguably for other reasons too) and Laertes vows revenge on Hamlet, so his death has significant consequences.

For your obituary, try to include positive aspects of his personality, how people admired and trusted him, etc.  Also mention his surviving family and, if you can, add some quotes from the play about what people have said about him - teachers love that kind of stuff.  I've included a website that I've found on writing obituaries that might be helpful, along with the enotes links to Hamlet summaries.

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted January 23, 2011 at 3:35 PM (Answer #5)

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I really like the humorous way in which Post 2 sort of parodies official language and finds a way to explain away what has happened.  For example, the "unforeseen difficulties" that are delaying Polonius's burial is really classic.

For my part, I would want to emphasize the extent to which Polonius is a caring parent.  Of course, he was an important man, but he really cared about his son and daughter.  He might not have always showed it the way they would have liked, but his heart is clearly in the right place.  I would think that you should make a point of including that idea.

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