Tuesday, August 6, 2019
Polonius has sometimes been presented Essay Example for Free
Polonius has sometimes been presented Essay There has been much debate amongst critics and directors alike on the depth of Poloniuss character, and his purpose in the play. There are those, such as critic Myron Taylor, who view him as a more sinister persona, arguing his ineffectuality does not excuse his moral deviousness. Appearance has become his reality, thus implying he is used for menacing dramatic effect. However others take a more sympathetic view, for example Elkin Calhoun Wilson; that dotage repeatedly amuses us in his fondness for lecturing and giving advice, however sound, to his meandering young;, therefore interpreting him as a more bumbling and comical element to an otherwise serious play. Despite understanding both these views I still, like Hamlet, see Polonius as a rash, intruding fool [Act. 3Scene. 4 line33]and believe anything done that may appear enigmatic or ominous can only have occurred unintentionally (in the script) or through exaggeration in directing. Similarly to Wilson, I can see how Polonius would add light-hearted, comic relief to the play, especially when paired with quick-witted Hamlet, highlighting the cracks in Poloniuss delusional wise role he has adopted. Polonius has traditionally been played as a sinister character, with exaggerations on his spying and sneaking around castles, as is portrayed in Franco Zeffirellis version, though many productions in the 20th Century have instead portrayed him as older and more bumbling to bring a comic element to the play. There are two sides of Polonius shown in Act 1 Scene 3 and Act 2 Scene 1. These focus on his relationships with Ophelia and Laertes, and to me portray him as foolish again, though not unintelligent. He appears authoritative Look tot I charge you; come your ways [Scene3 line. 135 to Ophelia] and gives further instructions to Laertes Aboard, aboard.. neither a borrower nor a lender be [lines55+75]. This particular line enforces the idea he is comical/foolish; advising Laertes to leave else hell miss his crossing, yet proceeding to bombard him with a lengthy advisory speech that states what is obvious. It does seem that he is rambling here as well, as of course Laertes is returning to university, not just starting, making the well-meant advice effectively knowledge that Laertes already has. Both his offspring create an impression of having to be patient with him, replying in just short sentences as if to make up for time lost Most humbly do I take leave my lord [Laertes line 81]. The audiences knowledge that he isnt as respected as he thinks himself to be can be humorous, developing an almost bumbling man who is held in higher esteem by himself than even his long-suffering, and in the case of Ophelia, oppressed, children. With Ophelia, there is a significant difference their relationship than that with Laertes; Polonius seems highly insensitive to her feelings, and Ophelias replies become more restrained and subservient. When speaking to Ophelia, for example, Polonius advises her on her relationship with Hamlet Do not believe his vows, for they are brokers [Act 1 sc. 3 line 127]; in Kenneth Branaghs production of the play, Ophelia has already slept with Hamlet, and Branagh makes use of flashbacks in Ophelias mind of their sexual relations as she listens absent-mindedly to her father. This helps back up an image of Polonius as rather ignorant, especially as Ophelias reply is so submissive, building an impression of an advisor of little use to anybody, which in turn strengthens his role as a comic. However, this display of likeability could be argued to be compromised in Act 2 Scene 1 as Polonius plots to send spies after Laertes put on him What forgeries you please, [Act 2 sc. 1 lines19+20], potentially revealing a darker side to him, yet for me this is ruined later on in dialogue And then, sir, doesa this-he does-what was I about to say? suggesting he puts on an act whilst playing up his deviousness, as the inconsistency in language, dashes and faltering punctuation portray an inconsistent mind that runs away too easily and is not to be taken seriously; quite like the character itself: not intended to be a serious one. With relevance to Claudius, when both in a scene, Polonius can either be argued to be more devious or even more of a fool. The former view could have been picked up on because of the spying and meddling that occurs between the two of them, such as in Act 3 Sc. 1 Her father and myself, lawful espials, Will so bestow ourselves [ lines 32+33] and to some may show a more sinister shade to his persona. In Branaghs full-length version, Polonius is shown to be slyer, with the including of his (spying) scene with Reynaldo; a scene some directors cut out to enhance their own, more positive view of the character, due to his scheming. Polonius is in a superior position in the court, which has been argued to be deliberate to use his status power to a menacingly-inclined advantage, but is this because of his wisdom (as critic Harry Levin believes [Polonius is] quotable because of the wisdom of his comments), or because Claudius just needs a friend? There is a theory which might explain his position, interpreting him as someone who once had a great mind, but is now losing control of it. This is Polonius in a more tragic light, though Claudius evidently still relies on him and trusts him, as he follows Poloniuss advice regarding spying, but also agreeing to a meeting between Hamlet and the Queen before Hamlet is sent to England. The latter theory is the viewpoint that perhaps Claudius and Gertrude see him as a fool. When Polonius in Act 2 Sc. 2 gets carried away in his own wordiness Why day is day, night night [line 88] unintentionally, he is opposing himself to the idea of his speech brevity is the soul of wit [line 90], and Gertrude even remarks More matter with less art. [line 95], in other words, bluntly pointing out that Poloniuss act as a wise advisor is conjured by himself; that he is not the mind he thinks himself to be. Act 3 Scene 1 reconfirms my original theory, as Polonius guesses-incorrectly and slightly hypocritically-that the cause of Hamlets madness is down to Ophelias rejection, again giving Hamlet, and the audience, the upper hand yet do I believe The origin and commencement of his grief/ Sprung from neglected love. Even when it is confirmed that hamlets madness has nothing to do with Ophelia, Polonius sticks to his theory despite all evidence pointing to the contrary. Far from appearing sinister then, the two (Claudius and Polonius) together appear foolish, like puppets with Hamlet as their master, manipulating and playing their minds. This is demonstrated earlier in the play, as Polonius tells Ophelia not to believe his vows for they are brokers [Act 1 sc. 3 line 127], yet here, he himself is taken in by Hamlets performance. It is also worth noting that Polonius had previously told Ophelia Affection? Pooh, you speak like a green girl [Act 1 Sc. 3, lines 127, + 101], showing he is proving to be stubborn on a matter he previously disagreed with-and seemed so ready to persuade Ophelia likewise of- himself. Polonius is often contrasted with Hamlet. It could be argued his place in the play is to emphasise Hamlets quick-wittedness and intelligent nature. He seems not to understand the Prince is teasing him conversationally; I did enact Julius Caesar, I was killed I th Capitol; Brutus killed me [Polonius Act 3 Sc. 2lines 105+106] It was a brute part of him to kill so capitol a calf there [Hamlet lines 107+8]. Scenes like this also help to contrast Hamlets sharp dialogue with Poloniuss slow, lengthy style of speech, particularly when he is with the King or Queen and uses it to impress: as Elkin Calhoun Wilson has noticed and over-elaborating it [his wisdom] in speech with the King and Queen. Hamlet further makes Polonius the butt of his jokes in Act 3 Scene 2 By th mass and tis, like a camel indeed [Polonius line 375] Methinks it is like a weasel [Hamlet line 376] and has more fun at the old diplomats expense. It also quite blatantly makes a joke out of Polonius, the laughs in the audience this time actually being against him, as he remains too involved in the sound of his own voice to properly register what Hamlet is saying, establishing him unarguably as a comic character. Hamlet is a character with an excellent command over language in the play though, and is naturally clever without striving to be, whereas Polonius speaks in dragging, slow bouts and wants to be considered wise. There is clearly little respect towards Polonius from Hamlet (you are a fishmonger [Act.2 Sc. 2 line 174], and, as he is the protagonist of the play, this sways the audiences opinion towards him. He is almost too cruel towards him at some points though, e. g. old men have grey beards they have a plentiful lack of wit [Act. 2 Sc. 2 lines 197-201], clearly describing Polonius, and so perhaps enforcing the idea of him as a tragic character. Right until the end, Hamlet still treats Polonius as a second-class person; showing no remorse at his death and branding him a rash, intruding fool [Act 3 Scene 4 line 33] which of course he was. The words intruding convey a completely different meaning to cleverly inquisitive and rash doesnt invite the praise spontaneous would. He was then labelled a fool during his time in the play, and labelled a fool again upon his exit. It is ironic Poloniuss death should be so unceremonious [Act 3 Scene 4, stage directions Exit Hamlet dragging in Polonius line 219] given that his persona in the play was one of elaboration and false grandeur. This is almost like a last, bittersweet laugh against him, exactly the opposite of how he would have liked to have exited, the word dragged being of particular importance, as when performed on stage this would have been so undignified as to have crossed slightly into black humour territory, depending on the director (Ill lug the guts into the neighbour room, Hamlet, Act. 3 Scene. 4, line 213)It is also exposing that Polonius should have been killed from behind the arras, and in a foolish way too. It would have been wiser to remain hidden, and so by shouting, symbolically, perhaps Polonius was revealing the shallowness there was to his sinister persona. Hamlets reaction is one of brevity and disrespect I took thee for thy better [line 134]. However, his death does act as a catalyst for the race towards the ending of the play; Hamlet is sent to England to meet his death, though Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are killed instead. This proceeds to him finally taking revenge on Claudius, and results in the murders of Gertrude, Hamlet, Laertes and Claudius. Whether this increases his worth or not in the play is open to interpretation. Elkin Calhoun Wilson decides Polonius has a minor tragic dimension as well as a major comic boasting [my] eyes catch a more embracive view of him than Hamlets possibly can and with this I can, to an extent, agree. It is tragic he should be cast off in such a way, and in him there was not just the doddering old fool, but also, as Elkin writes, a comic appendage. Overall then, looking at various views and studying the text thoroughly, I can stick by my judgement of Polonius as a foolish, though comic, character. Although considered unimportant by those in the play, I believe him to bring a welcome relief from the drama and tragedy entangled in the plot which would otherwise make for a very depressing production. Of course, it is down to personal interpretation how a director would present the character, but to me the lengthy and self-important dialogue is unavoidable, and the undignified death inevitable, making Polonius -arguably- doomed to lack credible menace void of irony and humour, and therefore set firmly as a foolish prating character. 1999 words Sophie Mayall. Bibliography: Websites used:http://www. metroactive. com/papers/metro/02. 20. 97/branagh-9708. html http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Polonius www. jstor. org- Studies in English Literature 1500-1900: Vol. 8, No. 2, Elizabethan and Jacobean England www. jstor. org- Shakespeare Quarterly: Vol. 9, No. 1 (Winter 1958), pp. 83-85 Films: Kenneth Branaghs film version Hamlet: 1996 Franco Zeffirellis film version Hamlet: 1990 Copies of the text: Cambridge School Shakespeare First Edition, published 1994 Heinemann Advanced Shakespeare, published 2000 Journals: Shakespeare Quarterly: Vol. 9 (winter 2005), Vol. 8 No. 2 (spring 1968).