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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: October ::
Comments on Polonius
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1800  Friday, 1 October 2004

[1]     From:   Thomas Bishop <
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        Date:   Thursday, 30 Sep 2004 10:31:23 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1793 Comments on Polonius

[2]     From:   John Briggs <
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        Date:   Thursday, 30 Sep 2004 17:10:24 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1793 Comments on Polonius

[3]     From:   Bill Arnold <
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        Date:   Thursday, 30 Sep 2004 12:47:14 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1793 Comments on Polonius


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Thomas Bishop <
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Date:           Thursday, 30 Sep 2004 10:31:23 -0400
Subject: 15.1793 Comments on Polonius
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1793 Comments on Polonius

"He is far gone, [far gone]. And truly in my youth I
suffered much extremity for love, very near this."

It's hard for me, even with the best will in the world, to see these
lines as anything but an invitation to the audience to laugh at the
senex and his foolish memories of blown youth. It's just too close to
Justice Shallow and his nostalgia for Jane Nightwork. Polonius in
general performs very badly in this scene for anyone making a case for
his mastery of "the trail of policy".

Tom

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Briggs <
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Date:           Thursday, 30 Sep 2004 17:10:24 +0100
Subject: 15.1793 Comments on Polonius
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1793 Comments on Polonius

An curious thing about the part of Polonius is the number of 'in-jokes'.
Peter Bridgman pointed out here (and I hope he gets the credit in the
Arden3 edition) that "'beautified' is a vile phrase" is a clear jibe at
Greene's "upstart crow" slander.  (Would a contemporary audience have
recognised that?  It sounds more like something planted for future
generations of scholars!)  Then there is "I did enact Julius Caesar".
Clearly, the same actor played Caesar - could it have been William
Shakespeare himself (rather than John Heminges)?  Could "played once
i'th' university" and "kill so capital a calf" also be autobiographical?
  Is Shakespeare 'sending himself up' in the role of Polonius?

John Briggs

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bill Arnold <
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Date:           Thursday, 30 Sep 2004 12:47:14 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 15.1793 Comments on Polonius
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1793 Comments on Polonius

L. Swilley writes, "Of shifting identities, yes; a dodderer, no - that
is, if by 'dodderer' you characterize the man as he is so ineptly
presented in Olivier's production. Polonius is the First Minister of
State and, had he been a dodderer, most unlikely to be where he is
politically; certainly he would not be kept on and listened to by the
deep, devious, politically savvy Claudius. When, while instructing
Reynaldo, Polonius says "Where did I leave?" (i.e., "What was I just
saying?"), this is an order (and with a snap of the fingers), not a
request. People in such high places need not depend on their own memory;
others remember for them. Who interprets Polonius as a dodderer must be
prepared to show why a man like Claudius would listen to such a person,
be advised by him."

Whoa!  Is this true and certain?  Certainly, the statement above that
Polonius is "the First Minister of State" is unequivocable for me in my
reading of this statement, and if it be *NOT* interpretation but truth
in certitude, then it addresses my reading of *Hamlet* the play.  So, if
true and certain, then that makes Polonius the minion of Claudius and he
serves at the prerogative of the King and that makes Laertes the son of
"the first Minister of State" and we all know the involvement of all
three gentlemen [said in jest!] and their lies and criminal moves
against the rightful heir to the Danish throne, Prince Hamlet.

What a *NEW* spin this puts on the play, folks!  No wonder Prince Hamlet
stabbed "the first Minister of State" in the arse in the arras!  He
would have been a *spy* in the eyes of Prince Hamlet, what with what he
*KNEW* from the words of the spirit/ghost of his father, Old Hamlet, the
murdered King.

Makes me wonder if anyone has *READ* the words of Polonius carefully to
ascertain if he were in on a conspiracy *before the fact* of the
usurper's deed?  No doubt, he and Laertes are involved conspiratorially
against Prince Hamlet and their own family member, Ophelia!  Given the
above, it be they the conspirators who are *insane* inasmuch as they
overthrew the throne!

Bill Arnold
http://www.cwru.edu/affil/edis/scholars/arnold.htm

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