Hamlet

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"And thus do we of wisdom and of reach, / With windlasses and with assays of bias, / By indirections find directions out" (2.1.61-63), says Polonius, boasting of his ability to discover the real truth about his son's behavior in France. Deception is the driving force behind Polonius's character in the play. In the beginning of Act II, Shakespeare highlights the essential aspect of Polonius' character when Polonius sends Reynaldo to spy on Laertes, his son, in Paris. Polonius instructs Reynaldo to deceive and fool Laertes with letters and money. Ultimately, all Polonius wants is a report on Laertes's behavior; he demands Reynaldo, "Observe his inclination in yourself" (77) Polonius too, just like Claudius serves to reinforce the pattern of corruption and false appearances in the state. He epitomes diception and hypocrisy. Devoid of any sense of morality, spying and eavesdropping are his stock-in-trade. He not only sends Raynaldo to spy on Laertes but also uses the innocent Ophelia as a "bait" to trap Hamlet. Polonius deceives Hamlet when he, for the benefit of Claudius, arranges for Ophelia to meet Hamlet by accident to determine whether his irrational behavior is the result of "the affliction of his love" (3.1.36). So skilled is Polonius at the art of deceit that he has Ophelia pretend to read a prayer book to deflect any suspicion that might arise from her lurking alone in the corridor – Hamlet will believe she is simply meditating in seclusion:

Ophelia, walk you here. Gracious, so please you,
We will bestow ourselves. (To Ophelia) Read on this book,
That show of such an exercise may color
Your loneliness.
(3.1.43-6)
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