In Hamlet we see diverse characters who can be seen as having tragic flaws. Polonius, the loyal advisor to the king and the father of Laertes and Ophelia has a tragic flaw. This is his loyalty to the state and more specifically the king. Polonius’s characteristic of loyalty warrants a flaw given that it leads to his tragic death. In using Aristotles interpretation of a tragedy, Polonius’s loyalty is also tragic. The audience worries that they may have the same fate and are also sympathetic of Polonius since loyalty is usually a positive attribute. This play is an exception since loyalty is given to a corrupt king and state.
Before Laertes travels back to school he receives advice from his father, Polonius. He appears to be a caring father in Act 1, Scene 3, by first saying:
“Take each man’s censure,
but reserve thy judgment”
Following this Polonius orders,
“Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
but not express'd in fancy; rich, not gaudy.
For thy apparel oft proclaims the man.”
This comment suggests that Polonius is greatly concerned with how Laertes appears. It indicates that Polonius is worried about how the appearance of his son will make him look in the eyes of the state and king.
Shortly after Laertes leaves for school, Polonius sends Renaldo, a friend of Laertes, to spy on him. Polonius wants to keep a close eye on his son. But for what reason? Some may argue that he is a caring father but this is unlike Polonius’s character. Polonius is a politician, as we have seen; he advises his son to not look gaudy and rich. A much more likely reason would be that Polonius doesn’t want his image to crumble by his son acting badly. Renaldo is sent to protect Polonius’s image through the eyes of the state and king.
In the case of Polonius’s daughter Ophelia, Polonius demonstrates his loyalty to the state with her also. Following Ophelia’s explanation of her relationship with Hamlet in Act 2, Scene 1, Polonius advises:
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