A Hamlet timeline – chronicle of events

      Setting the Timeline – considerations

Claudius – planning my foul murder

King Hamlet's funeral – where was Hamlet?

Gertrude & Claudius – adultery or not?

Horatio – Hamlet's friend?

Horatio – is he passion's slave?

Polonius – the evil that men do

Ophelia's love? – did she love Hamlet?

Ophelia closetted – Polonius on love

      O help xxx ....... – Olivier's version

Ophelia's change – is Hamlet suspicious?

Hamlet feigns madness – protective "cover"

Is Hamlet mad? – Polonius's opinion

The Trial of Claudius – Hamlet's prosecution

Hamlet kills Polonius – stabs the "Voice"

Laertes v Hamlet – poisoned foil

Ophelia's death – a recipe

Hamlet's age – digging up the past

Yorick – something rotting in Denmark

Betting on Hamlet – the fencing match

Hamlet's fencing skill – better than Laertes

Hamlet's revenge – the rest is silence

Polonius on Hamlet

Does Polonius always think Hamlet is mad?

Act I begins at midnight and continues until a few hours after the next midnight. It is in the last hour that Hamlet proposes pretending to be mad.

Act II begins about two months later. Ophelia tells Polonius that Hamlet has visited her. He was crazily-dressed and acted so strange that she was very frightened.

Ophelia: "As you did command, I did repel his letters and denied his access to me."
Polonius: "That hath made him mad....Go we to the King. This must be known."
Meanwhile, the King and Queen ask Rozencrantz and Guildenstern to try to find why Hamlet is mad. Polonius tells the King and Queen "...I have found the very cause of Hamlet's madness." He then explains what he has found:-
Polonius: I precepts gave her,
That she should lock herself from his resort,
Admit no messengers, receive no tokens.
Which done, she took the fruits of my advice;
And he, repulsed - a short tale to make -
Fell into a sadness, then into a fast,
Thence to a watch, thence into a weakness,
Thence to a lightness, and, by this declension,
Into the madness wherein now he raves.
A few minutes later Polonius talks to Hamlet and it is evident he still thinks Hamlet is mad. Polonius says "he knew me not at first. 'A said I was a fishmonger. 'A is far gone, far gone." and then "Though this be madness, yet there is method in it."

The next morning, in the nunnery scene, Polonius tries to prove Hamlet's madness is caused by love for Ophelia. The King disagrees that this is the cause but Polonius is not put off and tries again by hiding in the Queen's closet. The Queen allows this event simply because she thinks Hamlet is mad. Suddenly, the Queen thinks the madman is going to kill her and she panics "What wilt thou do? Thou wilt not murder me? Help, help, ho!"

That is an understandable reaction from the Queen, but what would Polonius have thought when he heard her yell out? Consider the alternatives:-

  1. Assume Polonius believes Hamlet is not mad. He knows that a sane Hamlet would not harm his mother. In that case, Polonius would do nothing but just stay quietly behind the arras and keep listening to the conversation. There would certainly be no need to call for help.
  2. Assume Polonius believes Hamlet really is mad. When he hears the Queen call out, he will think that she is about to be killed by an insane Hamlet. In a desperate bid to save her life he would call for help.
What does Polonius do? He calls out "What, ho! help, help, help!"

In summary, Polonius always thinks Hamlet is crazy!