What is comical about Polonius in Shakespeare's Hamlet?

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Polonius in William Shakespeare’s tragedy titled Hamlet is often presented as a comic figure, not only by critics but by Shakespeare himself.  Perhaps the most comical moment in the play involving Polonius is the one in which he tells Hamlet of the arrival of the actors, describing them as the

best actors in the world, either for tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral , pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-comical-historical-pastoral; scene individable, or poem unlimited. Seneca cannot be too heavy, nor Plautus too light. For the law of writ and the liberty, these...

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etotheeyepi | Student

When I read Hamlet, I didn't find any humor, but notice the audience laughs.

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cynosure | Student

In addition to wat is rightfully noted above , I would like to add a bit more info.

Polonius never fails to arouse laughter among the audience.His unconscious humour runs throughout the play till his death by the hands of Hamlet. The superficial and shallow worldly wisdom is given expression in the form of the advice to his son Laertes. The words  "to thine own self be true", has a ironical undercurrent as Polonius' action contradicts his words. Then again we find him saying at one moment that "Brevity is the soul of wit" and in the very next moment off he goes blabbering on and on. Dowden aptly remarks " Start the oldman on his hobby of uttering wisdom , and off he will go". His long-winded instructions to Reynaldo on spying the actions of Laertes in France offers us yet another occassion wherein Polonius' Comic nature is revealed . He is a man who plays with words and this is the essence o f his wit. eg. He reports to the King and Queen that

"Your noble son is mad:
Mad call I it ; for, to define true madness,

what is't but to be nothing else but mad?"
May be he intended to say that trying to define madness itself is madness but he ended up saying that madness is nothing but madness. And Gertrude asks for "more matter with less art". Thus his love for words often obscures the meaning. Polonius' s garrulity is thus yet another source of comedy. He is fond of talking and his manner of talking is also funny. He is a sychophant and manipulator and these traits also serve their purpose while shedding some light into the comic elements of his character. The element of humour is most pronounced in the conversation between Hamlet and Polonius about the shape of the clouds in th sky.

It goes like this:

Ham: Do you see yonder cloud that's almost in the shape of a camel?

Polo: By the mass and 'tis , like a camel indeed.

Ham: Methinks it is like a weeasel.

Polo: It is backed like a weasel.

Ham: Or like a whale.

Polo: Very like a Whale.

Thus all these combine together to make  Polonius a wonderful comic figure.

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