In Hamlet, what is the significance of Polonius' advice to Laertes in Act I Scene 3?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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A lot of the meaning of this advice depends on how a director chooses to play Polonius in this scene. Is he presented as a loving, caring father who is genuinely wanting the best for his son, or is this a repetition of advice that Laertes has heard many a time before? Depending on how Polonius is shown to deliver these lines, he can be presented as a comic bore or a wise, loving father. However, it is always worth remembering the position of such scenes and which scenes they are placed next to. This touching scene of a father-son relationship highlights the way that Hamlet has been robbed of such intimacies by his father's untimely death. Likewise the fact that this scene comes straight after Act I scene ii, when Claudius tries to assume the role of Hamlet's father but then goes on to try and manipulate him to stop showing grief, emphasises the poor alternative of a father that Hamlet is left with. Lartes has a father who cares for him and loves him, as shown through the very sensible and wise advice offered. Hamlet, on the other hand, has an Uncle for a father who has disinherited him and married his mother swiftly after his father's death. What kind of a father figure is this to Hamlet? Thus, arguably, this scene through juxtaposition helps present the isolation of Hamlet in the mind of the audience.

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