polonius is the father of laertes a young courtier and ophelia whom he may have a secret desire to see married to hamlet who is the likeliest person to inherit the throne polonius s job is to serve the king and his family is deeply and tragically
Polonius is the father of Laertes, a young courtier, and Ophelia, whom he may have a secret desire to see married to Hamlet, who is the likeliest person to inherit the throne. Polonius’s job is to serve the king, and his family is deeply (and tragically) involved with the royal family. For the purposes of the play, they represent the constituents of the kingdom.
In Act 1, Scene 3, Shakespeare introduces us to Polonius and his family. Polonius gives his son Laertes some famous and often-quoted fatherly advice, which focuses on how to dress, how to act around others, when to spend money and when not to. Most of the advice concerns how a young courtier in a king’s court should maintain and control his appearance and reputation. At the end of his long speech on page 669, Polonius concludes by telling Laertes “Neither a borrower nor a lender be:/ For loan oft loses both itself and friend,/ And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry. This above all: to thine own self be true,/ And it must follow, as the night the day/ Thou canst not then be false to any man” (1.3.76-82).
Is this advice, “to thine own self be true,” really good advice? How might this be interpreted as bad advice? How is this advice less than straightforward? What does Polonius mean by “true” and “false” here? Might it ever be a bad idea to be true to “thine own self”? Does Laertes follow this advice? Does Polonius?