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What does Polonius assign Reynaldo to do in Hamlet, Act II, Scene i?

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berryberry2410 | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 20, 2010 at 11:06 AM via web

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What does Polonius assign Reynaldo to do in Hamlet, Act II, Scene i?

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mitchrich4199 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted January 23, 2011 at 6:24 PM (Answer #1)

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In Act II, scene i, Reynaldo is asked to spy on Laertes in France. Polonius is concerned that his son is not acting like the "noble youth" he is and Reynaldo is tasked with acquiring information on how Laertes is conducting himself.

This event says a lot about Polonius and his character. First of all, he doesn't trust either of his children. In Act I, he leaves Laertes with specific fatherly, but intrusive, advice, after lecturing Ophelia about Hamlet's motives and desires. Secondly, this "ruse" makes him look petty and deceptive. While his trick is clever, as he himself notes, "Your bait of falsehood takes this carp of truth:/ And thus do we of wisdom and of reach/ With windlasses and with assays of bias/ By indirections find directions out," it illustrates his fatal flaw. This is only the first of many "tricks" and "ruses" that Polonius plans. In the end, he is the "victim of his own treachery."

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nickj | High School Teacher | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted December 4, 2014 at 11:07 PM (Answer #2)

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Polonius proves himself to be an untrusting parent by choosing to send Reynaldo to spy on Laertes even after speaking directly with his son already. After providing his son with a lengthy list of 'life rules' to follow while he is away at University.

These rules include:

"Give thy thoughts no tongue" - keep your thoughts to yourself
"Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried, Grapple them unto thy soul with hoops of steel." - maintain the bonds of friendship

Polonius also goes on and on to Reynaldo with directions on how best to spy on his own son. Reynaldo's assignment to spy is far from noble, but it is as if Polonius can't help him self. 

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