How do I explain Polonius's spirit of worldliness in it's worst aspects?IN regard to Polonius's reference to the play

1 Answer | Add Yours

timbrady's profile pic

timbrady | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted on

Let's look at his advice to his son, Laertes:

Yet here, Laertes! aboard, aboard, for shame!
The wind sits in the shoulder of your sail,
And you are stay'd for. There; my blessing with thee!
And these few precepts in thy memory
See thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,
Nor any unproportioned thought his act.
Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.
Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel;
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new-hatch'd, unfledged comrade. Beware
Of entrance to a quarrel, but being in,
Bear't that the opposed may beware of thee.
Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice;
Take each man's censure, but reserve thy judgment.
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not express'd in fancy; rich, not gaudy;
For the apparel oft proclaims the man,
And they in France of the best rank and station
Are of a most select and generous chief in that.
Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
This above all: to thine ownself be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell: my blessing season this in thee!

 

This is probably the most practical, worldly advice that a father could give his on, advising him on keeping his mouth shut, watching what he wears, being careful not to attach himself to easily to new friends, wearing the "right" clothes, and not lending money to anyone for the damage that it also does to itself and friendship.  This is a recipe for creating the "front" that leads to success in this world.

After all this counsel to present a false, or at least concocted, appearce to the world, he ends with his most famous line:

This above all: to thine ownself be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

Given all that Polonius has just said, this advice is loaded with irony, but does confirm that Polonius really knows what has to be done to get ahead.  He gets an "A" for worldliness, although he gets a much poorer grade for integrity, and this is demonstrated clearly when he is killed sneaking around, hiding in the Queen's room.

 

 

We’ve answered 318,995 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question