Hamlet Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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Describe Hamlet's behavior towards Polonius.

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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As was mentioned in the previous post, Hamlet does not respect or admire Polonius throughout the play. He believes that Polonius is an old fool. In Act Two, Scene 2, Hamlet disrespects Polonius to his face by calling him a fishmonger and refuses to answer him directly throughout their conversation. Hamlet continually throws verbal jabs at Polonius whenever they have a discussion. Hamlet even makes fun of Polonius's age throughout the conversation, but Polonius is too dumb to realize that he is being ridiculed. When Polonius leaves the scene, Hamlet calls him a tedious old fool.

Hamlet does not respect Polonius, because he is friends with King Claudius and acts like an idiot. Hamlet continually makes fun of Polonius to his face. When Hamlet asks Polonius if he participated as an amateur actor, Polonius proudly says that he played the role of Julius Caesar. After Polonius recounts that his character was stabbed at the Capitol, Hamlet responds by saying, "It was a brute part of him to kill so capital a calf there" (Shakespeare, 3.2.98). In Act Three, Scene 4, Hamlet accidentally murders Polonius, who was eavesdropping behind a curtain. After he discovers that he has killed Polonius, Hamlet says,

"Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool, farewell. I took thee for thy better. Take thy fortune. Thou find’st to be too busy is some danger" (Shakespeare, 3.4.32-34).

Clearly, Hamlet does not care about Polonius and views him with contempt.

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ms-mcgregor eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Hamlet thinks Polonius is a buffoon who talks to much and is trying to foist his daughter on Hamlet. He never loses an opportunity to make fun of the king's closest advisor. He calls him a "fish monger" ( or pimp), compares him to Jepthah, an old Testament judge who sacrificed his own daughter, and generally plays him for a fool. When Polonius asks Hamlet what he is reading, Hamlet replies "words". Hamlet claims he sees things in the clouds just to get Polonius to foolishly go along with him. In addition, he tries to embarrass Polonius in front of the crowd gathered to see "The Murder of Gonzago", Hamlet points out that Polonius acted in Julius Caesar and his character was killed in the capitol. This is obviously a veiled threat to Polonius and actually foreshadows his death in Elsinore, the capitol of Denmark. After Hamlet kills Polonius, he calls him a "prating nave" or fool. He leaves Polonius' body lying in a pool of blood throughout his confrontation with his mother and then unceremoniously grabs him and hides his body. Hamlet obviously does not care for or respect Polonius.

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