Hamlet Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

Hamlet book cover
Start Your Free Trial

In act 1, scene 3, of Hamlet, what does Polonius say to Ophelia about Hamlet?

Expert Answers info

D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2016

write10,888 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

Polonius echoes Laertes's words of warning about the dangers of Ophelia getting involved with Hamlet. When Polonius quizzes Ophelia about whether Hamlet has shown her signs of affection, she says he has made many tender and affectionate overtures to her recently. Polonius responds to that with worldly cynicism, saying,

Affection! Pooh, you speak like a green girl,
Unsifted in such perilous circumstance.
Do you believe his “tenders,” as you call them?
Polonius says Ophelia is being naive and asks if she believes Hamlet. When Ophelia responds that she is not sure, Polonius warns her to be wary and steer clear of him. He reminds her that Hamlet is a powerful prince, someone who is used to getting what he wants. She is simply the daughter of a courtier, a man who does the bidding of kings and princes. She and Hamlet are not on the same level, and there is every likelihood he would love her and leave her. He may promise her "holy vows of heaven," as she calls his words, but she must not trust him. Polonius states, with amazing brevity for him,
In few, Ophelia,
Do not believe his vows

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

accessteacher eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write13,728 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and History

Polonius plays the role of jealous and possessive father in this scene. He is very suspicious of any promise Hamlet has made to his daughter, and urges Ophelia to remember that as prince, he is able to do things and say things that she is unable to do. He urges her to disregard any vows and promises that he has made to her, as he feels that any such vows and promises are made without true sincerity and only have the objective of trying to take Ophelia's virginity. Note what he says about Hamlet and how Ophelia differs from him:

For Lord Hamlet,

Believe so much in him, that he is young,

And with a larger tether may he walk

Than may be given to you.

It must be remembered at this time that an unmarried woman's worth was based on her virginity, and that if this was taken, her status would drop accordingly. Polonius therefore appears to be very strict when he rebukes Ophelia in this scene, but he can also be seen as doing what he has to in order to protect his daughter and make sure she can marry one day and live a happy life in Danish society.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

awesomesauce838 | Student

Polonius says that Ophelia has been to free with him. He criticizes their relationship and says that Hamlet does not truly love her, he is just young and impulsive, his professed love will soon come to pass. Polonius is saying that Ophelia is being naive, and cannot be with Hamlet anyways, as he is a prince and he is just toying with her so she should communicate less with him and be careful so she (and her father) does not lose her honor.