HAMLET- Act 2, Scene 1

Summarize the events of the scene. Polonius sends his servant Reynaldo to Paris to give Laertes some money and letters, but also to secretly check up on him. Polonius’s instructions are so detailed and complicated that they are absurd. Ophelia enters, upset. She tells Polonius that Hamlet burst into her room and held her wrists, studying her face and sighing. Then he left without a word. Polonius concludes that Hamlet has gone mad with love because, on Polonius’s orders, Ophelia stopped speaking with him.
How is Polonius’s true nature revealed in the scene? Polonius is established here as a meddler; he instructs Reynaldo in using appearance to hide reality. Appearance vs reality.
What does Polonius’s conclusion reveal about his character? Polonius decides Hamlet really did love Ophelia after all, but does not apologize to his daughter. Appearance vs reality/ Women and sexuality.
How is Reynaldo’s name significant? ‘Reynaldo’ translates as ‘the Fox’ which suggests cunning and also emphasises the manipulative nature of Polonius- he commands the fox and so one assumes that he is cunning to a greater extent.
Why does Shakespeare portray Polonius as ridiculous? This may be to justify Hamlet’s action of killing Polonius in Act 3 scene 4. As Polonius is continually a focus of ridicule, Hamlet’s murder of him is merely an extension or culmination of this, rather than the sign of a mad, unjustified act.
Why is Hamlet’s scene of tormenting Ophelia left absent? “with a look so piteous in purport…” This could be left absent either to show Ophelia’s continued innocence (lack of insight) or to leave uncertainty regarding the nature of Hamlet’s madness, just as it is for the characters in the play at this point.
How does Polonius foreshadow the circumstances of Ophelia’s death? Juxtaposition between “ecstasy of love” and “violent” reflects passion of love and possibly damaging nature of it. Polonius also notes that it “leads the will to desperate undertakings”, possibly foreshadowing therefore Ophelia’s desperate situation and thus her death.
What does Polonius’ comment “…as proper to our age To cast beyond ourselves in our opinions As it is common for the younger sort To lack discretion” suggest? Polonius here could be suggesting that all people, not matter status or apparent wisdom, suffer from flaws in character which could lead to their downfall. This connects to the convention of the Spanish tragedy- the death of all of the main characters.

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