What does Polonius advice to Ophelio reveal about his feelings about the relationships between men and women?In Act 1 - Scene 3

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mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Act I of Hamlet, Polonius gives separate advice to his son Laertes and daughter Ophelia.  His advice to his son is general, wordy, and positive ("To thine own self be true"), but his words to his daughter are curt, pointed, and accusatory:

You do not understand yourself so clearly
As it behoves my daughter and your honour.
What is between you? give me up the truth.

Polonius tells Ophelia point blank that she does not understand either herself or her female sense of honor.

This is obviously a double standard by Polonius.  He expects the best from Laertes and the worst from Ophelia.  Worse, Polonius controls his daughter's self-image and sense of honor.  She cannot be herself: she can only see herself as he sees her.

He goes on to tell her:

Marry, I'll teach you: think yourself a baby;
That you have ta'en these tenders for true pay,
Which are not sterling. Tender yourself more dearly;
Or--not to crack the wind of the poor phrase,
Running it thus--you'll tender me a fool.

Obviously, he's treating her like a baby.  He first tell her not to see Hamlet any more, to return his letters, and be coy.  This, in general, is how women of the time were expected to be: hard to get.  Fathers brokered their marriages and regulated their feelings.

Ironically, Polonius later will treat his daughter as a prostitute.  He will play the role of pimp, using her to spy on Hamlet.

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Hamlet

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