In Shakespeare's Hamlet, is Polonius reasonable, a modern day fool, or a Shakespearean fool?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I don't think it's quite fair to call Polonius a fool, and I don't believe that Shakespeare intended him to be regarded as a fool. Hamlet refers to him as a fool where he says, "These tedious old fools!" but even Hamlet may not mean it literally. Polonius is getting old and exhibiting some of the characteristic of old people generally. For one thing, he talks too much. On one occasion Gertrude interrupts him by saying, "More matter, with less art." He is also forgetful, like a lot of old people. When he is talking to the servant he is sending to France to keep an eye on Laertes, he loses his train of thought and has to be reminded of what he was saying. Perhaps at one time he was exceptionally intelligent. After all, he has risen to the post of advisor to the king. His problem might be diagnosed as senility. Hamlet can make him look foolish, but this is the sort of thing that some young men enjoy doing with old men. A notable example is where Hamlet asks Polonius, "Do you see yonder cloud that's almost in shape of a camel?" He gets the poor old man spinning around to look up at the sky until he is dizzy.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial