Hamlet Act II: Subtle Humor and Wise Words

Act II of Hamlet can be broken into three parts. The first part is Polonius sharing Hamlet’s love for his daughter with the king, the second part is Hamlet talking philosophy with his schoolfellows. Here are my thoughts on the parts you selected for consideration.

1.Polonius: Who is Polonius? We know that he is the “lord chamberlain,” but what do we know about him? The thing which stands out the most about Polonius is his constant spouting of clichés and commonsense advice such as “To thine own self be true” (line 78). He is also shows himself to be contradictory. In line 91, after extensively rambling on the need for haste, he states “I will be brief,” but he cannot control himself: by line 96 he is rambling again, stating: “’tis true: ’tis true ’tis pity;/ and pity ’tis true ’tis true” (96-97). There is some dramatic irony going on here. He is trying to show that he is very wise because he shows such a mastery of language, but his continual distraction from the important point he is trying to relate makes him appear foolish.

2.Prision: Why is Denmark a prison? In line 230, Hamlet refers to Denmark as a prison which sparks an intellectual conversation. Hamlet is making the point that it is you opinion of where you are that makes it a good or bad prison, and his low esteem of Denmark is show when he states that there are many prisons in the world, but that “Denmark is one of the worst” (236). His schoolfellow, Rosencrantz counters that it is merely his ambition that make Denmark a prison. The point he is making is that when your ambitions are greater, smaller or different from the expectations of your parents or superiors, then you are trapped in a prison of not achieving what you want in life.

The second act of Hamlet, though short, packs a lot of set up for the rest of the plot. It show the dramatic irony of Polonius, and the hidden brilliance of Shakespeare’s language. Despite its’ length – or lack thereof – I enjoyed it a lot.

(No external websites were used in the writing of this blog)


1 Comment

  1. danielsbrown said,

    August 9, 2012 at 3:59 pm


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