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The Two Sides of Polonius

  • Date Submitted: 09/24/2010 08:15 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 62.9 
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The Two Sides of Polonius:

A Critical Review
of
Hamlet

One of the great benefits of seeing a theatrical performance of Shakespeare’s works is that the audience can see well known pieces interpreted, and hence performed, in different manners.   These differences in interpretation can dramatically change the feel of the performance as a whole.   Seeing these differences leads me to a larger understanding and appreciation for Shakespeare.   For my review of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, I am going to focus on the character Polonius.   This character was portrayed very differently in the production than I had imagined him when I read the text.
While reading the text, I imagined Polonius as a very stately individual.   He seems like the type of person that really tries to make himself important by his manner of speech.   He is long winded, but at the same time articulate.   An example of this can be found in the text when Polonius approaches the king and queen about Hamlet.   He begins in majestic fashion:

          My liege, and madam, to expostulate
          What majesty should be, what duty is,
          Why day is day, night night, and time is time,
          Were nothing but to waste night, day, and time;
          Therefore, [since] brevity is the soul of wit,
          And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes,
          I will be brief. (H,2,2,85-92)

This can be interpreted in two different ways.   When I read the text, I took Polonius as a man who sees that the apparent affection between Hamlet and his daughter Ophelia can be exploited to his own gain.   Since the future of his success rests on the king and queen accepting him and his daughter, he attempts to impress them with his highbrow style of speech.
The production chose to interpret Polonius in a totally different way.   They portrayed him as a buffoon.   In the same scene referenced above, Peter Prouty as Polonius uses lots of flourishing hand gestures and extravagant bows.   These...

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