Hamlet Polonius Character Analysis

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 822 |

Pages: 2|

5 min read

Published: Jun 14, 2024

Words: 822|Pages: 2|5 min read

Published: Jun 14, 2024

Table of contents

  1. Polonius' Manipulative Tendencies
  2. Polonius as a Father
  3. Polonius' Ultimate Demise

Throughout William Shakespeare's play, Hamlet, the character of Polonius serves as an intriguing and complex figure. Known for his intelligence, cunning, and sometimes comical behavior, Polonius possesses a range of character traits that contribute to the overall dynamics of the play. This essay will delve into the various facets of Polonius' character, examining his manipulative tendencies, his role as a father, and his ultimate demise. By analyzing these traits, we can gain a deeper understanding of the intricate web of relationships and motivations within the play.

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Polonius' Manipulative Tendencies

One of Polonius' most prominent character traits is his manipulative nature. From the very beginning of the play, he demonstrates his ability to navigate the political landscape of the Danish court. In Act I, Scene iii, Polonius advises his son, Laertes, on how to behave while in France. He gives a long list of instructions, including "Give thy thoughts no tongue" and "To thine own self be true" (Shakespeare 1.3.59-81). These seemingly fatherly words of wisdom, however, mask Polonius' true intentions.

Polonius' advice to Laertes is not solely motivated by genuine concern for his son's well-being. Rather, it serves as a means for Polonius to maintain control over his family and further his own political agenda. By instructing Laertes to be cautious with his words and to always be true to himself, Polonius ensures that his son will not reveal any information that may be detrimental to his own interests. Additionally, by emphasizing the importance of reputation and appearances, Polonius encourages Laertes to prioritize the preservation of the family name, thus securing his own position in the court.

Furthermore, Polonius' manipulative tendencies extend beyond his interactions with his own family. In Act II, Scene ii, he orchestrates a plan to spy on Hamlet and Ophelia's conversation, hoping to uncover the cause of Hamlet's madness. Polonius manipulates Ophelia into agreeing to the scheme, using her love for him as leverage. He tells her, "I will loose my daughter to him" (Shakespeare 2.2.163), implying that her obedience and cooperation are essential for both her and her father's well-being.

Polonius' manipulative nature ultimately leads to his downfall. In Act III, Scene iv, when Hamlet mistakenly kills Polonius, the audience is reminded of the consequences of his deceitful actions. This serves as a cautionary tale, highlighting the destructive power of manipulation and deceit.

Polonius as a Father

Another significant aspect of Polonius' character is his role as a father. While he presents himself as a caring and concerned parent, his actions often contradict his words. In Act I, Scene iii, Polonius advises Laertes to be cautious in his relationships with women, warning him about their fickle nature. He cautions, "Tender yourself more dearly, / Or (not to crack the wind of the poor phrase, / Running it thus) you'll tender me a fool" (Shakespeare 1.3.68-70). This statement reveals Polonius' underlying fear of being embarrassed or humiliated by his son's actions.

Polonius' overbearing nature and desire for control are also evident in his relationship with Ophelia. In Act I, Scene iii, he instructs her to distance herself from Hamlet, claiming that his affections are not genuine. Polonius says, "I would not, in plain terms, from this time forth, / Have you so slander any moment leisure / As to give words or talk with the Lord Hamlet" (Shakespeare 1.3.132-134). While Polonius may believe that he is protecting Ophelia from potential heartbreak, his actions ultimately contribute to her mental instability and tragic demise.

Polonius' role as a father highlights the complexities of parent-child relationships. Despite his flaws, Polonius genuinely believes that he is acting in the best interest of his children. However, his need for control and his disregard for their individual desires ultimately lead to their downfall.

Polonius' Ultimate Demise

Polonius' character journey culminates in his tragic demise. In Act III, Scene iv, Hamlet, in a fit of rage, mistakes Polonius for Claudius and impulsively stabs him through a curtain. This violent act highlights the consequences of Polonius' manipulative and deceitful behavior.

Polonius' death serves as a turning point in the play, leading to a chain of events that ultimately lead to the downfall of various characters. His demise sparks a series of tragedies, including Ophelia's descent into madness and the subsequent deaths of Gertrude and Laertes. Polonius' manipulations and his disregard for the feelings and desires of others contribute to the tragedy that unfolds in the play.

In conclusion, Polonius' character in Hamlet is multi-dimensional, with traits that both intrigue and repel the audience. His manipulative tendencies, his role as a father, and his ultimate demise all contribute to the overall themes of power, control, and the destructive nature of deceit. By examining the complexities of Polonius' character, we gain a deeper understanding of the motivations and actions of the other characters in the play. Polonius serves as a cautionary example, reminding the audience of the consequences of manipulation and the importance of authenticity in human relationships.


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Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Edited by Ann Thompson and Neil Taylor, Bloomsbury Arden Shakespeare, 2016.

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Hamlet Polonius Character Analysis. (2024, Jun 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 15, 2024, from
“Hamlet Polonius Character Analysis.” GradesFixer, 14 Jun. 2024,
Hamlet Polonius Character Analysis. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 15 Jul. 2024].
Hamlet Polonius Character Analysis [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Jun 14 [cited 2024 Jul 15]. Available from:
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