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The antithesis of a character such as Polonius, Hamlet chides Polonius in Act II, Scene 2, for his characteristic remark. For, when Hamlet, as host to the players who have come to perform for the court of Denmark, asks Poloniusto pay the players well so that all may go well with his life,
Good my lord, will you see the players well
bestow'd? Do you hear? Let them be well used; for they
are the abstract and brief chronicles of the time. After
your death you were better have a bad epitaph than their(520)
ill report while you live.
Polonius foolishly replies, "My lord, I will use them according to their desert." For, he does not understand as does Hamlet that the itinerant actors are the chroniclers of the time. Hamlet tells Polonius that a bad epitaph on one's grave is preferable to all the damage actors can do to one's reputation if they perform dramactic acts descriptive of the courts which disparage the nobility in them. Chiding Polonius, Hamlet recites his own golden rule that everyone should be treated better than what they deserve:
God's bodykin, man, much better: use every
man after his desert, and who should 'scape
whipping? Use them after your own honor
and dignity: the less they deserve, the more
merit is in your bounty. Take them in.
That is, Hamlet believes that one should treat people better than they deserve, thus demonstrating one's own honor. Such charity surely goes to one's credit, he contends. Clearly, Hamlet demonstrates his noble heart while the duplicitous Polonius unwittingly reveals his own.
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