Act II, Scene 1: “A Room in Polonius’ House”
Summary: We’re back to Polonius, who is sending a servant to sort of check up on his son in Paris. He wants the servant to ask around about the kid before actually visiting him and spread rumors that he had been seen coming out of gambling halls and brothels. His explanation for doing this is that by implying naughty things we’ll find out the real truth of what he’s been doing and see if he’s truly taken his father’s advice. The servant seems to understand, or pretends to, and after he leaves, Ophelia comes in, all distressed because Hamlet had been acting crazy. Polonius believes it is his passion for her coming out, and they leave to go tattle to the King.
Reaction: Ophelia let me down. She listened to her father and had “denied his [Hamlet’s] access to me.” And I’m having trouble understanding Polonius. I know I don’t like him, but I just didn’t get what he was trying to do with his son. He’s either cold and calculating or a complete moron, and at this point I’m leaning toward moron.
Prediction: If Polonius is cold and calculating, then he’s really trying to shame his son into returning home from Paris–he hadn’t sounded like he wanted him to go in the first place. If he’s a moron, he might shame him to come home anyway. And I’m not giving up on Ophelia, though telling on Hamlet to the King seems like a low blow, though I know she’s worried about him.
Why This Book Is a Classic: Daughters actually listening to their fathers–that doesn’t happen much in modern literature.
Why a Modern Audience Might Like It: We can pretty much all relate to moronic parents (if not our own, then at least someone else’s)–and also cold, calculating ones.