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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: March ::
Re: Polonius' Precepts
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0350.  Thursday, 13 March 1997.

[1]     From:   Laurence Shatkin <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 12 Mar 97 9:01:18 EST
        Subj:   Re: Polonius' precepts

[2]     From:   Andrew Walker White <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 12 Mar 1997 12:19:26 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Polonius/Reynaldo

[3]     From:   Christine Mack Gordon <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 12 Mar 1997 11:38:15 CST6CDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0347  Re: Polonius' Precepts

[4]     From:   John Mills <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 12 Mar 1997 12:41:51 -0700 (MST)
        Subj:   Precepts

[5]     From:   <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 12 Mar 1997 16:53:32 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0347 Re: Polonius' Precepts

[6]     From:   John Boni <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 12 Mar 1997 16:41:23 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0347 Re: Polonius' Precepts


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Laurence Shatkin <
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Date:           Wednesday, 12 Mar 97 9:01:18 EST
Subject:        Re: Polonius' precepts

To me, Polonius' precepts seem to be a spoof of Lyly's "Euphues."  I'm
thinking of the scene at the beginning where an old gentleman lectures
the young Euphues with such advice as, "Be merry but with modesty, be
sober but not too sullen, be valiant but not too venterous.  Let thy
attire be comely but not costly, the diet wholesome but not
excessive...."

It seems that part of the intent is to make Polonius look a little
silly, pompous, and over the hill by using this affected style that is
now badly outdated.

Laurence Shatkin
Educational Testing Service

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Andrew Walker White <
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Date:           Wednesday, 12 Mar 1997 12:19:26 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Polonius/Reynaldo

I've seen Polonius use his 'absent-mindedness' as a test of Reynaldo's
attentiveness, and it works quite well.  Like others on this list, I'
much more interested in a truly political interpretation, conniving,
etc., to Polonius.

There is a mention of a film by Lyth-is this the Danish version that was
made a few years ago, with Helen Mirren?  Why haven't I seen it here in
the United States?  I've managed to find Kosintsev's marvelous film, but
have yet to see this one.

Andy White

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Christine Mack Gordon <
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Date:           Wednesday, 12 Mar 1997 11:38:15 CST6CDT
Subject: 8.0347  Re: Polonius' Precepts
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0347  Re: Polonius' Precepts

I've enjoyed all the comments on various interpretations of the role of
Polonius. I thought that Richard Briers's performance in Branagh's
version was one of the best I've seen. He captured both the savvy
politician _and_ the concerned parent, and was able to recognize his own
follies as well-most notably in the scene with Ophelia after Hamlet
appears in her closet, when he says near the scene's end: "I feared he
did but trifle / And meant to wreck thee. But beshrew my jealousy! / By
heaven, it as as poper to our age / To cast beyond ourselves in our
opinions / As it is common for the younger sort / To lack discretion."
I don't remember ever having heard those lines before, and given their
placement in the scene that began with the conversation with Reynaldo,
they are quite revealing. I also thought that Laertes and Ophelia felt a
genuine affection for their father in this film; Laertes might have
smiled a bit at the "second leave," but he seemed genuinely moved by his
father's precepts and blessing.  Briers's performance overall was a very
rich one.

Chris Gordon

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Mills <
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Date:           Wednesday, 12 Mar 1997 12:41:51 -0700 (MST)
Subject:        Precepts

Are wise and foolish, sinister statesman and doddering pantaloon the
only alternatives.  I have always thought of the precepts as wise in
their way, but amounting to no more than worldly wisdom, and as such not
far removed from getting along, making it, how to succeed in business,
etc., grounded in expediency, not in principle and, as such, precisely
what we would expect from the experienced survivor of decades of court
intrigue.  And as for "To thine own self be true"-does it not flatly
contradict all the advice that precedes it?  My students are always able
to catch this, with little or no prompting from me.  Furthermore, it is
excellent advice if only one new what to do with it.  Is finding a "true
self" not the central agony of adolescence, an agony which Laertes and
Hamlet may be thought of as still experiencing.  Again, my students,
still at that stage of life, find no difficulty in seeing it that way.
Seen in that way, it is central to Hamlet's dilemma.  What is  my true
self?  Am I an avenger? If I were to do that would be being myself or
simply playing out an imposed social role, doing the expected thing?

John Mills

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           <
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Date:           Wednesday, 12 Mar 1997 16:53:32 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 8.0347 Re: Polonius' Precepts
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0347 Re: Polonius' Precepts

To thine own self be false!

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Boni <
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Date:           Wednesday, 12 Mar 1997 16:41:23 -0600 (CST)
Subject: 8.0347 Re: Polonius' Precepts
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0347 Re: Polonius' Precepts

When I was in eighth grade (yes, prior to junior highs or middle
schools), those of us who were honors graduates had to recite a poem at
our graduation exercise.  My friend, Donny, was assigned "Polonius'
advice to Laertes"  (*I* had Kipling's *IF*).  With a title like that,
I assumed, it must be a very important piece.  Imagine my chagrin years
later when it was taught me as a throwaway spoken by a windbag.

Then, years later, one of my students suggested that at least one line
was very pertinent.  "'Above all, to thine own self be true' is very
pertinent because part of Hamlet's effort is to define what his 'own
self' is."  Thanks, student.

It is certainly also true, as several have pointed out, that Polonius'
apothegms are pretty standard stuff.  That is no reason to dismiss
them.  Similarly, I ahve ehard the assertion that Polonius deserves his
end because he is (a.) a snooper, (b.) a windbag (c.) etc., etc.
Interesting morality.

John M. Boni
 

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