Characterize Polonius on the basis of Act 2, Scene1, Lines 1-75 of "Hamlet."

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cybil eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In this scene Polonius tells his servant Reynaldo to visit Paris to deliver money to Laertes and, more importantly, to check on his behavior. Polonius suggests that Reynaldo use gossip and rumor; his servant should carefully plant suggestions that Laertes has been seen gambling, drinking, swearing, fencing, visiting prostitutes---all behaviors unbecoming a gentleman. Others will respond with truth. We ask ourselves, Why would a loving father try to slander his son? Polonius is using lies to find truth, surely not a direct approach.

In this scene Polonius uses a fishing metaphor ("Your bait of falsehood takes this carp of truth" (2.1.65) because he believes that Reynaldo will "By indirections find direction out" (2.1.67); that is, using such a roundabout approach will result in truth. We see Polonius as a sneaky individual who employs spying, even on his own son, rather than simply seeking truth. This scene foreshadows the many examples of spying that will follow in the play; Polonius is involved in a number of them. He seems to be a harmless old man; after all, he forgets what he's telling Reynaldo, who has to remind him of the thread of conversation. Polonius, however, enjoys scheming.

Jamie Wheeler eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I am currently teaching "Hamlet" in my Lit 101 class here at eNotes.  For in-depth information on Polonious and this scene, please visit the links below. 

The first is for the lesson in question, the second to the Lit 101 blog in general.