How does Polonius treat his daughter in Act II, Scene 1 of Hamlet, and how can you tell?

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pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Polonius does not really spend much time with Ophelia in this scene.  However, during the time he does spend with her, he seems to be a good father who cares about his daughter.

The main reason that I say this is that he seems to be truly unhappy about the way that he has (he thinks) messed up Ophelia's life.  He says that he regrets telling Ophelia to reject Hamlet.  He says that he has hurt Ophelia by doing that.  Right at the end of the scene he blames himself for making Hamlet crazy and (by doing that) hurting Ophelia.

lmetcalf's profile pic

lmetcalf | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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We should remember that Polonius is first and foremost a courtier to the king.  While he is upset with himself for not giving more credit to Hamlet's feelings for Ophelia, he is also pleased to be able to tell the King what is wrong with Hamlet.  He is kind of excited to have the 'answer.'  He wants to tell the king that the problem with Hamlet isn't mourning over the death of his father, it is "the very ecstasy of love." In this case, it is unrequited love.  It can be noted here that Ophelia seems to have obeyed her father's earlier command to reject Hamlet, and yet he asks her if she has "given him any hard words of late."  What is he implying?  His first concern is for his reputation, and he seems to be playing into that here.

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