Why does Act 2 open with Polonius and Reynaldo? What does this tell us about Polonius's character, and what theme or motif does it introduce in the play?
mstultz72 | Certified Educator
Hamlet Act II is a preview of things to come. Polonius is a foil for Claudius.
- Polonius is using a Reynaldo to keep watch on his son the same way that Claudius will use spies (Polonius, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern) to spy on his "son-in-law," Hamlet. The themes of personal distrust and unnatural relationships are thus revealed.
- The scene also reveals Polonius' hypocrisy and double-standards. Earlier, he gave Horatio good advice, but this scene undermines his role as a trusting father. In the same way, Claudius gives Hamlet advice in Act I ("But, you must know, your father lost a father; That father lost, lost his..."). So too is Claudius' illegitimacy revealed.
- The scene shows Laertes' wild side. Polonius describes his son as "very wild; Addicted." This foreshadows his uber-passionate side that will come out in Acts IV and V after the deaths of his father and sister. Laertes, then, is a passionate foil to the overly-contemplative Prince Hamlet.