Polonious as Fool CharacterIn Act 2.2, we continue to see Polonious in a role Shakespeare often incorporates into his plays, the "fool."  Yet the fool character is typically found in the...

Polonious as Fool Character

In Act 2.2, we continue to see Polonious in a role Shakespeare often incorporates into his plays, the "fool."  Yet the fool character is typically found in the comedies, and the recompense to the fool generally mild.  How do you think Shakespeare wanted audiences to feel about Polonious? 

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amy-lepore's profile pic

amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Polonius provides many laughs, but as he begins to wedge himself into everyone's business attempting to advance himself and his children, he hides behind one-too-many tapestries and gets perhaps what he deserves?  Is Shakespeare telling us that we should never cross our own classes?  Mind our own business and don't butt in?

clane's profile pic

clane | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted on

I totally agree with malibrarian here, Polonius is great comic relief, in the beginning of the play, but as the play progresses his comic nature fades into a dangerously mouthy, nosy, know-it-all. It's his mouth that literally leads to his death. He was running his mouth to the queen in private, then hid and at the moment he makes a sound revealing his location, he is killed, somewhat mistakenly so, by Hamlet. Hamlet doesn't really feel all that bad when he sees it is Polonius who has met his death,

"Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool, farewell! Take thy fortune. Thou find'st to be too busy in some danger."

Hamlet is basically telling Polonius that it serves him right for being as nosy as he's been. Since Shakespeare set the play up so the audience would be sympathetic toward Hamlet's plight, we automatically feel Hamlet's sentiments as well.

I also think Shakespeare imparted many words of wisdom through Polonius, he gave some great advice to live by- too bad he really didn't try to live by it all himself- he may have lived longer.

malibrarian's profile pic

malibrarian | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted on

I think Polonius serves a dual purpose, or maybe even more.

One is that he is comic relief. This play is melancholy and dark from the very first scene, and Shakespeare was excellent at throwing in some humor to give his audiences a bit of a break (look at the Porter in "Macbeth" - he's a hoot, right in the middle of a horrible part of the play). So I definitely think Polonius works as the stock "fool" character for some light-heartedness.

But then Shakespeare carries that foolishness even further by showing what happens to fools who won't keep their noses out of other people's business - they get stabbed behind arrases! Seriously, I think Shakespeare used Polonius as the ultimate in foolishness, and I don't mean the jingle-bell hat and shoes, cavorting in court kind of fool. I mean the person who is so caught up with running other people's lives, controlling situations, that they don't ever give themselves and their priorities a close scrutiny. It is like a word to the wise - Don't worry so much about the splinter in your neighbor's eye; rather, take care of the beam sticking out of your own eye.

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