In Hamlet, Polonius interacts in very different ways with the various characters. While talking with Reynaldo, he speaks in a sneaky, sly and clever manner. When talking with his daughter Ophelia, he seems very concerned. When talking with Hamlet, he seems confused, not knowing what Hamlet is talking about. When talking with the Players, however, he acts imperiously, exerting his authority over them.
When talking with Reynaldo, Polonius speaks in a clever and sneaky manner. He tells Reynaldo exactly how to speak to people while trying to find Laertes.
He tells him exactly what to say so that the other person will be forced to tell him of the whereabouts of Laertes. He told him that he should say “you may say, not well. But, if ‘t be he I mean, he’s very wild.” Polonius’s sneakiness is seen through his clever tactic in sending Reynaldo to Paris for the purpose of discovering Laerte’s habits. When talking with his daughter Ophelia, however, he seems genuinely concerned.
This is true because in regard to Laertes, Polonius was looking for an excuse to punish or disown him for leaving the country. However, by Ophelia, Polonius is really concerned.
While speaking with Gertrude and Claudius, Polonius is very honest. He comes before the king and queen bringing good news. The good news is that he knows why Hamlet is so upset. The reason is because of Ophelia. After discovering Hamlet’s lust for his daughter, he told Ophelia to stop meeting Hamlet and to send back Hamlet’s love letters. Then, he asks the king and queen if there has ever been a time where he had not told the truth. Claudius responds “not that I know.” To prove his fidelity, he is prepared to have his head chopped off if he is wrong.
When talking with Hamlet, Polonius is confused. Polonius does not understand what Hamlet is talking about. When confronting Hamlet, Hamlet is reading a book. When asked what kind of book he is reading, Hamlet responds “Slanders sir.”
While speaking with the Players, Polonius is arrogantly domineering. The Players come to perform a play for hamlet in order to cheer him up. While doing their play, Polonius rudely interrupts them. He makes comments such as “This is too long.” In addition, after the play, when Hamlet instructs Polonius to treat the Players well, Polonius responds arrogantly, “My lord, I will use them according to their desert.” In response to Polonius’s disrespectful statement, Hamlet says “God’s bodykin’s man, much better. Use every man after his desert, and who should ‘scape whipping? Use them after you honor and dignity.”
In conclusion, Polonius’s character varies with every individual he interacts with. It varies to the extent that his character can change from extremely honest to sly and sneaky. Also, it can change from confused to arrogantly domineering. His unique character traits differ greatly to the extent that by the end of Act II, Polonius is viewed as a necessary and crucial character in the play.