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Polonius
Polonius
is a character in William Shakespeare's Hamlet. He is chief counsellor of the king, and the father of Laertes and Ophelia. Generally regarded as wrong in every judgment he makes over the course of the play,[1] Polonius
Polonius
is described by William Hazlitt
William Hazlitt
as a "sincere" father, but also "a busy-body, [who] is accordingly officious, garrulous, and impertinent".[2] In Act II Hamlet
Hamlet
refers to Polonius
Polonius
as a "tedious old fool"[3] and taunts him as a latter day "Jeptha".[4] Polonius
Polonius
connives with Claudius to spy on Hamlet. Hamlet
Hamlet
unknowingly kills Polonius, provoking Ophelia's fit of madness, ultimately resulting in her early death and the climax of the play: a duel between Laertes and Hamlet.

Contents

1 Character 2 Sources 3 Name 4 Stage and film portrayals 5 Famous lines 6 Notable portrayals 7 References

Character[edit] Father of Ophelia
Ophelia
and Laertes, and counselor to King Claudius, he is described as a windbag by some and a rambler of wisdom by others. It has also been suggested that he only acts like a "foolish prating knave" to keep his position and popularity safe and to keep anyone from discovering his plots for social advancement. It is important to note that throughout the play, Polonius
Polonius
is characterised as a typical Renaissance "new man", who pays much attention to appearances and ceremonious behaviour. Some adaptations show him conspiring with Claudius in the murder of King Hamlet. In Act 1, Scene 3, Polonius
Polonius
gives advice to his son Laertes, who is leaving for France, in the form of a list of sententious maxims. He finishes by giving his son his blessing, and is apparently at ease with his son's departure. However, in Act 2, Scene 1, he orders his servant Reynaldo to travel to Paris and spy on Laertes and report if he is indulging in any local vice. Laertes is not the only character Polonius
Polonius
spies upon. He is fearful that Hamlet's relationship with his daughter will hurt his reputation with the king and instructs Ophelia
Ophelia
to "lock herself from [Hamlet's] resort". He later suspects that Ophelia's rejection of Hamlet's attention has caused the prince to lose his wits, and informs Gertrude and Claudius of his suspicion, claiming that his reason for commanding Ophelia
Ophelia
to reject Hamlet
Hamlet
was that the prince was above her station. He and the king test his hypothesis by spying on and interrogating Ophelia. In his last attempt to spy on Hamlet, Polonius
Polonius
hides himself behind an arras in Gertrude's room. Hamlet
Hamlet
deals roughly with his mother, causing her to cry for help. Polonius
Polonius
echoes the request for help and is heard by Hamlet, who then mistakes the voice for Claudius' and stabs through the arras and kills him. Polonius' death at the hands of Hamlet
Hamlet
causes Claudius to fear for his own life, Ophelia
Ophelia
to go mad, and Laertes to seek revenge, which leads to the duel in the final act. Sources[edit] The literary origins of the character may be traced to the King's counselor found in the Belleforest
Belleforest
and William Painter versions of the Hamlet
Hamlet
legend. However, at least since the 19th century scholars have also sought to understand the character in terms of Elizabethan court politics. Polonius
Polonius
was first proposed as a parody of Queen Elizabeth's leading counsellor, Lord Treasurer, and Principal Secretary William Cecil, Lord Burghley in 1869.[5] Israel Gollancz also suggested that Polonius might have been a satire on Burghley. The theory was often finessed with supplementary arguments,[6] but also disputed. Arden Hamlet editor Harold Jenkins, for example, criticised the idea of any direct personal satire of Burghley as "unlikely" and "uncharacteristic of Shakespeare".[7] Name[edit]

A stained glass representation of Polonius

Gollancz proposed that the source for the character's name and sententious platitudes was De optimo senatore, a book on statesmanship by the Polish courtier Wawrzyniec Grzymała Goślicki, which was widely read after it was translated into English and published in 1598 under the title The Counsellor.[8] "Polonius" is Latin for "Polish" or "a/the Polish man." The English translation of the book refers to its author as a statesman of the "polonian empyre". In the first quarto of Hamlet, Polonius
Polonius
is named "Corambis". It has been suggested that this derives from "crambe" or "crambo", derived from a Latin phrase meaning "reheated cabbage", implying "a boring old man" who spouts trite rehashed ideas.[9][10] Whether this was the original name of the character or not is debated. Various suggestions have been made to explain this. G. R. Hibbard argues that the name was originally Polonius, but was changed because Q1 derives from a version of the play to be performed in Oxford and Cambridge, and the original name was too close to that of Robert Polenius, founder of Oxford University. Since Polonius
Polonius
is a parody of a pompous pseudo-intellectual, the name might have been interpreted as a deliberate insult.[11] The title page of Q1 specifically states that the play was recently performed in London, Oxford and Cambridge. Stage and film portrayals[edit] In most productions of the 20th century, up to about 1980, Polonius was played as a somewhat senile, garrulous man of about seventy-five or so, eliciting a few laughs from the audience by the depiction. More recent productions have tended to play him as a slightly younger man, and to emphasise his shiftiness rather than pompous senility, harking back to the traditional manner in which Polonius
Polonius
was played before the 20th century. Until the 1900s there was a tradition that the actor who plays Polonius
Polonius
also plays the quick-witted gravedigger in Act V. This bit suggests that the actor who played Polonius
Polonius
was an actor used to playing clowns much like the Fool in King Lear: not a doddering old fool, but an alive and intelligent master of illusion and misdirection. Polonius
Polonius
adds a new dimension to the play and is a controlling and menacing character. One key to the portrayal is a producer's decision to keep or remove the brief scene with his servant, Reynaldo, which comes after his scene of genial, fatherly advice to Laertes. He instructs Reynaldo to spy on his son, and even suggest that he has been gambling and consorting with prostitutes, to find out what he has really been up to. The inclusion of this scene portrays him in a much more sinister light; most productions, including Laurence Olivier's famous 1948 film version, choose to remove it. The respective productions starring Richard Burton
Richard Burton
and Kenneth Branagh
Kenneth Branagh
both include it. Although Hume Cronyn plays Polonius
Polonius
mostly for laughs in the Burton production, Polonius
Polonius
is more sinister than comic in Branagh's version. Famous lines[edit] Polonius's most famous lines are found in Act 1 Scene 3 ("Neither a borrower nor a lender be"; "To thine own self be true") and Act 2 Scene 2 ("Brevity is the soul of wit"; and "Though this be madness, yet there is method in't") while others have become paraphrased aphorisms ("Clothes make the man"; "Old friends are the best friends"). Also, the line he speaks when he is killed by Hamlet
Hamlet
in Act 3 scene 4 ("O, I am slain!") has been subject to much parody and ridicule due to its relative obviousness.[12] Notable portrayals[edit]

Hume Cronyn
Hume Cronyn
won a Tony Award
Tony Award
for playing Polonius
Polonius
opposite Richard Burton's Hamlet
Hamlet
in John Gielgud's 1964 Broadway production. No other actor has ever won an award for playing Polonius
Polonius
in any professional American stage version of Hamlet, nor for playing him in a film version of the play. In "The Producer", a 1966 episode of Gilligan's Island, Polonius' "Neither a borrower nor a lender be" speech is performed satirically, first by series regular Alan Hale Jr.
Alan Hale Jr.
as The Skipper
The Skipper
playing the role of Polonius
Polonius
(with Dawn Wells
Dawn Wells
as Mary Ann playing Laertes) in a musical production of Hamlet
Hamlet
by the castaways, then by Phil Silvers guest-starring as a famous stage producer who finds himself on the island.[13] Actors who have played Polonius
Polonius
on film and television include Hans Junkermann, Ian Holm, Michael Redgrave, Ian Richardson, Oliver Ford Davies, Bill Murray, and Richard Briers.

References[edit]

England portal Theatre portal Fictional characters portal

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Polonius.

^ 'Hamlet' in William Hazlitt, Characters of Shakespeare's Plays. ^ " Polonius
Polonius
at Encyclopædia Britannica". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 10 July 2014.  ^ Hamlet
Hamlet
Act II scene ii – William Shakespeare. ^ 2.2.346 ^ French, George Russell. "Notes on Hamlet." Archived 10 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine. In Shakspeareana Genealogica. London: Macmillan & Co., 1869. pp. 299–310. ^ See, for example, Lilian Winstanley, Hamlet
Hamlet
and the Scottish Succession, 1921, 112; 114–118; John Dover Wilson, The Essential Shakespeare, 1937, 104; Joel Hurstfield, The Queen's Wards, 1958, 257; A.L. Rowse William Shakespeare: A Biography, 1963, 323; Shakespeare The Man, 1973 185, 186. ^ Jenkins, Harold, ed. Hamlet
Hamlet
(1982), 142. ^ Daniel H. Cole, "From Renaissance Poland to Poland's Renaissance: The Struggle for Constitutionalism in Poland by Mark Brzezinski," Michigan Law Review, Vol. 97, No. 6, 1999 ^ William Shakespeare, Philip Edwards (ed) Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, Cambridge University Press, 2004, p.71. ^ Courtney, Krystyna Kujawinska. “ Shakespeare
Shakespeare
in Poland: selected Issues” Internet Shakespeare
Shakespeare
Editions, University of Victoria, 2003, p. 2. ^ G. R. Hibbard (ed), Hamlet, Oxford University Press, 1998, p.69-75. ^ "See all of Polonius's lines". Opensourceshakespeare.org. Retrieved 10 July 2014.  ^ Elizabeth Abele (20 November 2013). Home Front Heroes: The Rise of a New Hollywood Archetype, 1988–1999. McFarland. p. 187. ISBN 978-0-7864-7333-5. 

v t e

William Shakespeare's Hamlet

Characters

Hamlet Claudius Gertrude Ghost Polonius Laertes Ophelia Horatio Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Fortinbras The Gravediggers Yorick

Soliloquies

"To be, or not to be"

"Mortal coil"

"What a piece of work is a man" "Speak the speech"

Words and phrases

"The lady doth protest too much, methinks" "Thy name is" "Primrose path"

Terminology

Dumbshow Induction Quiddity Substitution

Sources Criticism

Legend of Hamlet The Spanish Tragedy Ur-Hamlet Critical approaches Bibliographies Horwendill Saxo Grammaticus House of Gonzaga Damon and Pythias

Influence

Common phrases from Hamlet Hamlet
Hamlet
in popular culture References to Ophelia Language of flowers Human skull symbolism

Performances

Moscow Art Theatre (1911–1912) Richard Burton
Richard Burton
(1964)

On screen

1900 1907 1908 1912 1913 1917 1921 1935 1948 1954 1961 1964 1969 1974 1990 1996 2000 2011

Adaptations

Films

The Rest Is Silence (1959) The Bad Sleep Well
The Bad Sleep Well
(1960) Ophelia
Ophelia
(1963) Johnny Hamlet
Hamlet
(1968) One Hamlet
Hamlet
Less (1973) The Angel of Vengeance – The Female Hamlet
Hamlet
(1977) Strange Brew
Strange Brew
(1983) Hamlet
Hamlet
Goes Business (1987) The Lion King
The Lion King
(1994) Let the Devil Wear Black (1999) The Banquet (2006) Tardid
Tardid
(2009) Karmayogi (2012) Haider (2014) Hamlet
Hamlet
A.D.D. (2014) Ophelia
Ophelia
(2018) The Lion King
The Lion King
(2019)

Novels

Gertrude and Claudius
Gertrude and Claudius
(2000) Dating Hamlet
Hamlet
(2002) Ophelia's Revenge
Ophelia's Revenge
(2003) The Dead Fathers Club (2006) Something Rotten (2007) Hamlet's Father
Hamlet's Father
(2008) The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
(2008) Hamlet
Hamlet
Had an Uncle

Plays

Hamletmachine
Hamletmachine
(1977) Dogg's Hamlet
Hamlet
(1979) Fortinbras (1991)

Musicals

Rockabye Hamlet
Hamlet
(1973) The Lion King
The Lion King
(1997)

Television

Hamlet
Hamlet
(Australian TV, 1959) Hamlet
Hamlet
at Elsinore (BBC, 1964) Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (BBC, 1980) Hamlet
Hamlet
(BBC 2, animated, 1992) Hamlet
Hamlet
(BBC 2, 2009)

Parodies

15-Minute Hamlet The Complete Works of William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
(Abridged) Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Io, Amleto The Klingon Hamlet "Lyle the Kindly Viking" To Be or Not to Be: That is the Adventure "Tales from the Public Domain"

Songs

"My Robin is to the Greenwood Gone" (16th century) "Pull Me Under" (1992) "Song for Athene" (1997)

Opera/classical

Hamlet
Hamlet
(Thomas) Amleto
Amleto
(Faccio) Hamlet
Hamlet
(Tchaikovsky) Tristia (Berlioz) Die Hamletmaschine (Rihm) Hamlet
Hamlet
(Dean)

Story within a story

Films

To Be or Not to Be (1942) Acting Hamlet
Hamlet
in the Village of Mrdusa Donja (1973) To Be or Not to Be (1983) Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead (1990) Highlander II: The Quickening (1991) Last Action Hero
Last Action Hero
(1993) Renaissance Man (1994) In the Bleak Midwinter (1995) War (2002) Hamlet
Hamlet
2 (2008) Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Undead (2009) Three Days (2012)

Plays

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1966) Stage Blood
Stage Blood
(1974) I Hate Hamlet
Hamlet
(1991) To Be or Not to Be (2008)

Novels

Hamlet, Revenge!
Hamlet, Revenge!
(1937) Theatre of War (1994) "The Undiscovered" (1997) The Shakespeare
Shakespeare
Stealer (1998) Interred with Their Bones
Interred with Their Bones
(2007)

Television

"The Producer" (1966) "The Conscience of the King" (1966) "Born to Be King" (1983) "Terrance and Phillip: Behind the Blow" (2001) Slings & Arrows (2003)

Art

Ophelia Affe mit Schädel

Video game

Last Action Hero
Last Action Hero
(1993) Hamlet
Hamlet
(2010)

Intertextuality

Asterix and the Great Crossing The Seagull Sharpe's Havoc

Related

Hamlet
Hamlet
and Oedipus Hamlet
Hamlet
and His Problems Hebenon Hamlet
Hamlet
Q1 Ostalo je ćutanje The Chronicles of Amber "Symphony No. 65" (Haydn) The Hobart Shakespeareans Gertrude – The Cry Poor Murderer Somet

.