Ophelia and Polonius have a father-daughter discussion toward the end of Act 1 where Polonius, concerned father that he is, warns his daughter Ophelia of becoming too involved with Hamlet. This warning comes just as Laertes, brother and son, has bid farewell. Laertes has just warned Ophelia himself of getting involved with Hamletthis is the first time the audience is alerted to the romance.
What have we seen of Hamlet so far? He is deeply grieving his father's death; he resents the rapid marriage of his uncle and mother bitterly; and he has been told of the ghost of his father. The plot is building faster than Claudius could say, "I do!" in these first few scenes, and I would imagine the first audience of Shakespeare's play would have been absolutely gripped to see what it all will come to.
Hamlet so far has been portrayed as passionate and earnest, but not necessarily mad. When he says to his mother, "Seems, Madam? I know not seems " we are given the impression of a man who is who he is, without pretence or acting. We know little of Polonius so far except that he is a well meaning, good-natured, and for all appearances honourable servant of the king.
This scene casts the first shadow of doubt upon Hamlet's character. It is curious that Shakespeare warns Ophelia twice: once through Laertes, and once through Polonius. Reading Laertes' speech we can see the perspective of an understanding, though cynical young man. He essentially says, "Be careful of Hamlet because he's young and his passions are burning. When the passions die down he'll realise his desire for you can't be fulfilled by marriage because of political constraints, and you'll be left behind, scandalised."
Both Laertes and Polonius recognise that Hamlet, being young and foolish, is also not subject to the same...