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Why does Hamlet call Polonius a fishmonger?

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never-land | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 27, 2008 at 4:20 AM via web

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Why does Hamlet call Polonius a fishmonger?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 27, 2008 at 5:08 AM (Answer #1)

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In act II of "Hamlet," when Polonius approaches, Hamlet calls him a fishmonger, a derogatory term that literally means one who sells fish, a rather lowly job since it involved bartering. Also, fishmonger has been compared to the word "pimp."  Hamlet perceives Polonius as having compromised his integrity by demanding that his daughter Ophelia associate with Hamlet in order to please the king.

To further the insult of Polonius as a hypocrite, Hamlet says that he wishes Polonius were "as honest as a fishmonger," suggesting that Polonius is among the lowest of those who are phony.

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