The Tragic Death


Of Polonius' Family
In Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, the death of a character
is a frequent occurrence. Although many people lose their
lives as a result of their own self-centered wrong-doing,
there are others whose deaths are aided by manipulation
from the royalty. This is the case with Polonius' family.
Tragedy means a downfall; a person usually begins high and
ends low. The real tragedy of Hamlet that most seem to
miss, is that of Polonius' family. 
In the beginning Polonius's family was alive and a family.
Then they became involved in schemes of Claudius and Hamlet
and these actions of their own and the royalty resulted in
their downfall, which was death. 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. The King
is trying to decide whether to send Hamlet to England or
not when he says to Polonius, "It shall be so: Madness in
great ones must not unwatch'd go."(1002) 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. Polonius says to King, "And, as
you said, and wisely was it said, Tis meet that some more
audience than a mother." (1011) The King thinks Hamlet is
mad and wants to send him to England but Polonius' wants to
make sure so he tells the King he will hide in the queen's
room to see what happens when Hamlet confronts her. His
involvement in this scheme is to help himself look good in
the King's eyes, as well as to help the King find out if
Hamlet is truly mad. The King is the one who created the
problem in the first place by killing Hamlet's father. His
involvement in this scheme with the royalty results in his
death when Hamlet stabs him while he is hiding behind the
arras in Gertrude's room. This shows how Polonius, a man
trying to better himself in the King's eyes, is unaware of
the true nature of his situation. If he had known that the
King had killed Hamlet's father, then he would have
consciously been able to make a decision on whether he
wanted to spy on Hamlet. He 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. Ophelia says to Polonius after
her encounter with Hamlet, " He took me by the wrist and
held me hard; Then goes he to the length of all his arm;
And, with his other hand thus o'er his brow, He falls to
such perusal of my face."(983) Hamlet does this to Ophelia
only to make her think he is mad. This way if she thinks he
is mad, then she tell his family what happen and they will
think he is truly mad. Ophelia explains to Polonius how
Hamlet has scared her, causing Polonius to draw the
conclusion that Hamlet is truly "mad". The fact that he
scares her and does not try to alleviate these fears means
that he is simply using her to help spread word of his
madness 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 in
Act IV, scene VII. It can be seen how the combined scheming
of Hamlet and Claudius concludes in her death. Claudius'
killing of Hamlet's father brings about Hamlet's scheme to
make people think he is mad 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 by other
people for their personal gain. It can be said that she did
not need to remain in that situation with Hamlet being
abusive to her and could have chosen to left but in that
time period I think it was very unlikely. Plus the fact
that a person she loved kills her father it can been seen
why she might want to commit suicide. The last member of
Polonius' family to die is Laertes, Ophelia's brother and
Polonius' son. Laertes' death is tragic because, although
he kills Hamlet, he is avenging his father's death. 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
An example of how Claudius uses Laertes to try and murder
Hamlet can be seen when the Claudius says: "Laertes, was
your father dear to you? Or are you like the painting of a
sorrow, A face without a heart?" (1033) Claudius says this
to Laertes so that he can manipulate him into a plan to
kill Hamlet. Claudius then assures himself that Laertes
will kill Hamlet when he asks him, "Hamlet comes back: what
would you undertake, To show yourself your father's son in
deed More than in words?" (1034) Laertes replies, "To cut
his throat I' th' church."(1034) It can be easily seen how
Laertes in the heat of his anger, influenced by Claudius,
could conspire to murder Hamlet and it is in this attempt
that Laertes loses his own life to the very poison he kills
Hamlet with. Once again, a member of Polonius' family loses
his/her life as a result of a conflict between Hamlet and
the King, making Laertes' death a tragedy as well.
Contrary to popular belief, the tragedy associated with
Hamlet is not just about Hamlet or his family. It is, also,
about the tragic fate of Polonius' family, whose deaths are
the result of trying to better themselves in the eyes of
the King. Unfortunately they are unaware that they are
being manipulated by Hamlet and Claudius. This family goes
from being a family to losing all of their lives for a
scheme in which they participated but were not the main
benefactors. The death of Polonius' family stands out as
being the most tragic.


Quotes: Search by Author