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What do Polonius's admonitions to Laertes and Ophelia in Act I, Scene iii suggest about...

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ayu11 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 7, 2007 at 3:15 PM via web

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What do Polonius's admonitions to Laertes and Ophelia in Act I, Scene iii suggest about court life, and is it good advice?

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Jamie Wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted May 7, 2007 at 8:37 PM (Answer #1)

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Some of the most familiar quotations in the English langauge are found in Polonious' cautioning to Laeretes, among them, "Neither a borrowerer nor a lender be" and "To thine own self be true." He also cautions his son to be friendly but not overly so and to listen more than speak.

As for Ophelia, she is harshly advised to "tender herself more dearly" when she confesses to her father Hamlet's affection (3.1.115). Polonius is afraid she will sleep with him, though Ophelia protests that "he has importuned me in an honorable fashion" (3.1.119-120).

As for what is says about life in the court, for men, they must meet standards of behavior that are above reproach. Women, well, they best be virgins...

Here is Polonious' speech to Laeretes (3.1.60-88)

And these few precepts in thy memory

Look thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,

Nor any unproportioned thought his act. [60]

Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar:

Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,

Grapple them unto thy soul with hoops of steel,

But do not dull thy palm with entertainment

Of each new-hatched, unfledged courage. Beware [65]

Of entrance to a quarrel, but being in,

Bear't that th' opposed may beware of thee.

Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice,

Take each man's censure, but reserve thy judgment.

Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy, [70]

But not expressed in fancy, rich, not gaudy,

For the apparel oft proclaims the man,

And they in France of the best rank and station

Are of a most select and generous chief in that.

Neither a borrower nor a lender be, [75]

For loan oft loses both itself and friend,

And borrowing dulleth th' edge of husbandry.

This above all: to thine own self be true,

And it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst not then be false to any man. [80]

Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!

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