Hamlet - Polonius' Family


Hamlet - The "Real" Tragedy

In Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, the death of a character
becomes a frequent event. Although many people lose their lives as a
result of their own self-centered wrong-doing, there are others whose
death are a result of manipulation from the royalty. This is the case
of Polonius? family. The real tragedy of Hamlet is not that of Hamlet
or his family but of Polonius? family because their deaths were not
the consequence of sinful actions of their own but rather by their
innocent involvement in the schemes of Claudius and Hamlet.
The first character to die in Hamlet is Polonius. Although
Polonius often acts in a deceitful manner when dealing with Hamlet, it
is only because he is carrying out plans devised by the king or queen
to discover the nature of Hamlet?s madness. Being the king?s Lord
Chamberlain, it is his duty to obey the king and queen?s wishes and it
is this loyalty that eventually proves to be fatal for him. An example
of hoe Polonius? innocent involvement with the royalty results in his
death can be found at the beginning of Act III, scene iv, when Hamlet
stabs him while he is hiding behind the arras in Gertude?s room. This
shows how Polonius, a man unaware of the true nature of the situation
he is in, is killed by a member of the royalty during the execution of
one of their schemes. This makes Polonius? death a tragedy.
The next member of Polonius? family to die is his daughter
Ophelia. Ophelia?s death is tragic because of her complete innocence
in the situation. Some may argue that Polonius deserves his fate
because of his deceitfulness in dealing with Hamlet while he is mad,
but Ophelia is entirely manipulated and used by Hamlet and the king
for their own selfish reasons. An example of how Ophelia is used by
Hamlet takes place in Act II, scene I, when Hamlet uses her to
convince his family he is mad. Ophelia explains to Polonius how Hamlet
has scared her, causing Polonius to draw the conclusion that Hamlet
has an "antic disposition". Although this is the subject to
interpretation and many believe that this is simply Hamlet taking one
last look at Ophelia before he becomes engaged in his plan to kill
Claudius, the fact that he scares her and does not try to alleviate
these fears points to the conclusion that he is simply using her to
help word of his madness spread throughout the kingdom via Polonius.
In Act III, scene iv, Hamlet kills Polonius while he is hiding behind
the arras in the Queen?s room. This event causes Ophelia to become
insane and leads to her eventual death in a river near the castle in
Act IV, scene vii. It can be seen how the combined scheming of
Hamlet?s scheme which brings about the death of Polonius which leads
to Ophelia?s death. The passing of Ophelia is a tragedy because she
does nothing deserving of death, she is merely used for other people?s
personal gain.
The last member of Polonius? family to die is Laertes,
Ophelia?s brother and Polonius?s son. Laertes? death is tragic
because, although he kills Hamlet, he is avenging his father?s death,
an act, with reference to the moral climate of the 1600s, that would
have been condoned by the people who saw the play. The difference
between Hamlet and Laertes is that Laertes does not use others to
attain his goals and his revenge is in part due to the pressure put on
him by Claudius. This makes Laertes? murder of Hamlet excusable and
his death a tragedy. An example of how Claudius uses Laertes to try
and murder Hamlet is seen in Act IV, scene vii. Claudius and Laertes
are discussing Hamlet when Claudius says:

Laertes, was your father dear to you? Or are
you like painting of a sorrow, A face without
a heart?

He is asking Laertes whether he is really sorry about his
father?s death or if he is just acting mournful without feeling
mournful. Claudius uses these lines to lead Laertes into a plan to
kill Hamlet, asking him what will he do to prove his love for his
father in ActIV, scene vii. Hamlet comes back; what would you
undertake to show yourself in deed your father?s son more than in