This website uses cookies to ensure you have the best experience. Learn more

Polonius In Shakespeare's Hamlet And John Updike's Gertrude And Claudius

2010 words - 8 pages

Polonius in Shakespeare's Hamlet and John Updike's Gertrude and Claudius

In every royal court throughout history, there has been the man who knows everything about everyone, and generally has the ear of the king; Shakespeare’s court of Denmark is no exception. Polonius, adviser and Lord Chamberlain to King Hamlet and Claudius, seems to know every intrigue, every alliance made in the interwoven royal court. In Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, Polonius is firmly seated at the King’s right hand and he will go to any lengths to facilitate the union of young Hamlet and Ophelia. Similarly, in John Updike’s prequel Gertrude and Claudius, Polonius acts as the liaison between Claudius and Gertrude, even going so far as to permit adultery to take place and knowingly to allow the royal bed of Denmark to be besmirched by incest. Throughout both the novel by Updike and the play by Shakespeare, Polonius’ interests are obviously his own, but at certain times in Gertrude and Claudius, he does indeed serve others. Polonius represents a paradox of ideals: on the surface, the loyal, if somewhat senile, counselor to the King; below this servile exterior, however, lurks the mind of a schemer unable to achieve the throne itself and, therefore, determined to undermine and to manipulate it in order to retain his own power. Although sometimes his machinations do not go as undetected as he may have planned Polonius achieves these goals of power through his interactions with several of the characters in Hamlet and Gertrude and Claudius.

Shakespeare does not expound greatly on the personalities of his characters; rather he lets them do it for themselves. Through Polonius’s actions and words towards Gertrude in the play, it seems that he is much more in service to Claudius than to his Queen. Gertrude also seems disenchanted with her husband’s adviser, often displaying annoyance with the Lord Chamberlain’s long-winded speeches and commanding him to speak “More matter with less art” (2.2.95). Polonius seems to try to confound both Gertrude and Claudius with gnarled, twisted, flowing statements that could be easily confusing. For example, as Polonius describes Hamlet’s condition, he uses word play to enhance his own cleverness, but only succeeds in annoying the royal couple:

Mad let us grant him then, and now remains
That we find out the cause of this effect,
Or rather say, the cause of this defect,
For this effect defective comes by a cause:
Thus it remains, and the remainder thus. (2.2.100- 104)

Polonius is a man who loves words for the power they can bring him, and he uses his rhetorical skills to great advantage.

Although Polonius enjoys hearing his own voice, he does have an amazing amount of self-confidence and faith in his position to the King. He is so sure of his own information sources that he orders the King to remove his head if he is wrong about the source of Hamlet’s madness. This surety comes from...

Find Another Essay On Polonius in Shakespeare's Hamlet and John Updike's Gertrude and Claudius

Claudius in William Shakespeare's Hamlet Essay

3222 words - 13 pages Claudius in William Shakespeare's Hamlet Ans. 'Hamlet, Prince of Denmark' is perhaps Shakespeare's best tragedy. It was written between the years, 1600-1601. Hamlet's character in the play is one of introspection and reflection. He is a person who thinks too much before he acts and also expresses a lot of his feelings before actually doing something. All of Shakespeare's tragedies concerned people in high positions in a

Passionate Gertrude in Shakespeare's Hamlet Essay

2922 words - 12 pages all my best obey you, madam.” So at the outset the audience notes a decidedly good relationship between Gertrude and those about her in the drama, even though Hamlet’s “suit of mourning has been a visible and public protest against the royal marriage, a protest in which he is completely alone, and in which he has hurt his mother” (Burton “Hamlet”). Hamlet’s first soliloquy expresses his anger at the quickness of his mother’s marriage to Claudius

Character Analysis of Shakespeare's Hamlet (Hamlet, Claudius, and Ophelia)

1561 words - 6 pages to Hamlet's insanity is because of rejection from his daughter, Ophelia. In the end, Polonius spies on Gertrude and Hamlet, who stabs him through a tapestry, thinking it was Claudius, and Claudius makes one last effort to get rid of Hamlet, by making him battle Laertes with a poison sword and later poisoning his drink. However,_________________________________________________________________________________________________________* Line number

Shakespeare's Hamlet - Claudius

2504 words - 10 pages be / A couch for luxury and damned incest’” (1.5.82—83)(Jorgensen). Gertrude in her nervousness prompts Polonius to reveal his presence behind the arras, motivating Hamlet, who thinks it is the king, to fatally stab him with his rapier. Claudius is not extremely alarmed about the incident since Gertrude does not share with him Hamlet’s feeling that he has killing the king behind the curtain. Nevertheless, the incident hardens Claudius in his

Claudius of Shakespeare's Hamlet

1944 words - 8 pages appropriate majesty. Indeed was he not a royal brother? (351)   The ghost informs Hamlet that Gertrude was seduced by “that incestuous, that adulterate beast,/With witchcraft of his wit, with traitorous gifts” prior to his brother’s passing. “So lust, though to a radiant angel link'd,/Will sate itself in a celestial bed,/And prey on garbage.” Thus Claudius is a very dishonorable type who has stolen the throne and his brother’s wife. This

Essay Contrasing Gertrude and Ophelia of Shakespeare's Hamlet

1884 words - 8 pages Contrast of Gertrude and Ophelia in Hamlet         Queen Gertrude and Ophelia, the main female characters in Shakespeare’s dramatic tragedy Hamlet, have a variety of contrasting or dissimilar personal qualities and experiences. This essay, with the help of literary critics, will explore these differences.   John Dover Wilson in his book, What Happens in Hamlet, discusses what is perhaps the greatest dissimilarity between Ophelia

Custom Written Essays: Contrasting Gertrude and Ophelia of Shakespeare's Hamlet

2040 words - 8 pages Introduction to Twentieth Century Interpretations of Hamlet, David Bevington analyzes the dissimilarity: “Characters also serve as foils to one another as well as to Hamlet. Gertrude wishfully sees in Ophelia the blushing bride of Hamlet, innocently free from the compromises and surrenders which Gertrude has never mastered the strength to escape” (9).   Ophelia is so despondent at the death of Polonius and the alienation of Hamlet that she

Shakespeare's Hamlet - Gertrude

2552 words - 10 pages Hamlet!’ The simple endearment is very poignant, reminding us that the bond between mother and son, and Hamlet’s desperate jealousy of Claudius, account for as much of the tragic progress of the play as the need to avenge old Hamlet’s death (46-47).   Is Gertrude a mother first, and queen second? This essay hopes to resolve seeming contradictions in the character of Queen Gertrude, as well as dealing with other aspects of her multi

Hypocrisy of Claudius in Shakespeare's Hamlet

1630 words - 7 pages develops, Claudius’ Mephistophelian nature becomes evident. In the early acts of Hamlet, there is no direct evidence of Claudius’ villainy. Claudius’ first appearance depicts him giving a speech to Queen Gertrude, Hamlet, Polonius, and other attendants. Claudius explains, “Though yet of Hamlet our dear brother’s death the memory be green, and that it us befitted to bear our hearts in grief and our whole kingdom to be contracted in one brow of woe

The Character of Claudius in Shakespeare's Hamlet

2283 words - 9 pages supposal of our worth." but he is also a great actor.         We know as the viewer of this play, that it was Claudius that committed the murder of his brother Hamlet, and that in selfish reason Claudius took to the throne along as marrying Gertrude, the past kings wife. Like the audience of the Elizabethan times, Hamlet is also mystified at this "O hasty marriage." In his superficial speech at the beginning of this scene

Shakespeare's Hamlet - Regarding Gertrude

2056 words - 8 pages . Was she, or was she not, conscious of the fratricide? (364-365)   Remember that the ghost does tell Hamlet not to prosecute the queen, but only Claudius. So she would seem to be innocent of the murder.   Gertrude has a contrasting character in the person of Ophelia, who is the picture of purity and innocence. Ophelia obeys her very morally and socially conservative father, Polonius, in every detail, even to the extent of giving

Similar Essays

"Claudius And Gertrude" By John Updike

559 words - 2 pages "Claudius and Gertrude", by John Updike, is a prelude to Hamlet. It starts with a short overview of Gertrude’s childhood. However, her name was Gerthude, the name from the original Latin text of the ancient Hamlet legend from the “Historia Danica of Saxo Grammaticus.” Other names are changed as well. Claudius is named Feng, Hamlet is Amleth, and Polonius is Corambus.Gertrude as a child was married off unwillingly at the age of 17

Shakespeare's Hamlet And Its Gertrude Essay

1898 words - 8 pages perplexity. Was she, or was she not, conscious of the fratricide? (364-365)   Remember that the ghost does tell Hamlet not to prosecute the queen, but only Claudius. So she would seem to be innocent of the murder.   Gertrude has a contrasting character in the person of Ophelia, who is the picture of purity and innocence. Ophelia obeys her very morally and socially conservative father, Polonius, in every detail, even to the extent of

Custom Shakespeare's Hamlet Essay: Hamlet And Gertrude

2010 words - 8 pages Hamlet and the Character of Gertrude        Shakespeare’s sinful woman in the tragedy Hamlet is named Gertrude. Wife of Claudius and mother of the prince, she is not selected by the ghost for vengeance by the protagonist. Let’s consider her story in this essay.   There is no doubt that Gertrude is a sinner in this play. In her book, Shakespeare’s Tragic Heroes, Lily B. Campbell describes the extent of Gertrude’s sin and of her

Essay On Gertrude And Ophelia’s Death In Shakespeare's Hamlet

1758 words - 7 pages surroundings “incapable of her own distress.” Ophelia’s death is “beautified” as she dies in a romantic and beautiful scene befitting her character where she was surrounded by her garland of flowers. (Ophelia herself was “beautified” in a letter from Hamlet which Polonius found to be a “vile phrase.”) There is much detail, leading me to believe that Gertrude is trying to soften the blow for Laertes who is already enraged over his father’s death and his