I had to write an essay on the relationship between Polonius and Ophelia based on Act I scene 3. Here it is. Please make any comments you want and give it a mark out of 20 if you like. (please think high school when you mark :-))
P.S. If you would like to write about the quality of Polonius' advice to Ophelia, do you assess the consequences that follow from it and whether it benefiited Ophelia?
Although Polonius’ stakes in the Danish court are of prime importance to him, his actions reveal that he is also protective of her daughter Ophelia. Ophelia in turn is equally subservient to her father’s wishes. This indicates a strong bond in the father-daughter relationship.
At the start of the passage, Polonius mentions that he does not approve of the ‘private time’ Hamlet has spent on Ophelia. He explains to Ophelia: ‘You do not understand yourself so clearly As it behooves my daughter and your honor’ - Polonius states that Ophelia is unaware how much her ‘free and bounteous’ attention to Hamlet is wrecking the social reputation of their family. Clearly, Polonius’ reputation in the court is one of his primary concerns. However, this does not imply that he has any less concern for the well-being of her daughter.
When Ophelia discloses the nature of their relationship – that Hamlet has ‘made many tenders of his affection’ to her – he ridicules her revelation: ‘Affection! Pooh! You speak like a green girl’ and ‘think yourself a baby’. Evidently, Polonius considers her grown-up daughter to be immature and naïve. Polonius advises Ophelia to ‘tender’ herself ‘more dearly’ or else that she will ‘tender’ him ‘a fool’. Clearly, Polonius is simultaneously protective of her daughter and concerned about his status in the Danish court.
This scornful attitude makes Ophelia defend her relationship: ‘he hath importuned me with love In honourable fashion and And hath given countenance to his speech, my lord, With almost all the holy vows of heaven.’ Although Ophelia fights to keep her relationship alive, she does so with the utmost politeness and respect for his father. His father however continues in his scornful tone and advises her ‘to be somewhat scanter of’ her ‘maiden presence ’ and to ‘set’ her ‘entreatments at a higher rate than a command to parle’ because Hamlet ‘is young and with a larger tether he may walk than may be given to’ Ophelia. This explanation demonstrates her genuine concern for Ophelia future well-being.
Ophelia, in spite of her earlier strong but polite defence, has decided ‘to obey’ Polonius’ advice.
All in all, Polonius considers her daughter immature and therefore is very protective of her. Ophelia herself is very loyal to her father and is willing to sacrifice even her love for the prince of Denmark to sustain that loyalty.