There are many negative characteristics of having a controlling personality, one is being very self-determined. This means ignoring the needs and wants of others to focus and only focusing on personal advancements in life (“Vital Signs”) which are prioritized by putting self-actualization above everything else (Siegel). The feeling of achieving the ‘highest potential’ is what makes Polonius so determined yet oblivious to other’s emotions around him.
One of Polonius’s first attempts to infiltrate the kingdom, was by using Ophelia’s relationship with Prince Hamlet.
When Ophelia was talking to Laertes about Hamlet’s love for her in the beginning, she mentions, “Do not, as some ungracious pastors do, Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven” (Shakespeare I. iii. 47-48). This is Ophelia’s warning to her family that she doesn’t want to be showed the painful way through life and she wants to make her own decisions. It creates a conflict between Polonius and Ophelia because her craving for independence contrasts his idea of him dominating.
He is also paranoid that Hamlet will lie and use her. Being worried, he begins to place parameters as any controlling person would do when they’re afraid and feel like they can’t trust someone (Seigel).
Polonius: I would not, in plain terms, from this time forth
Have you so slander any moment leisure
As to give words or talk with the Lord Hamlet.
Ophelia: I shall obey, my lord. (Shakespeare I. iii. 132-136)
Polonius demanding that Ophelia must end her beloved relationship with Hamlet, fearing she will get hurt, is an extreme parameter put in place to control this relationship.
Used to being controlled by her father, she obeys and ‘ends her relationship’ with Hamlet.
The conflict between Ophelia and Polonius grows in the next act when Hamlet appears in Ophelia’s room. Ophelia tells Polonius about the encounter in her chambers with Hamlet.
Ophelia: And with a look so piteous in purport,
As if he had been loosed out of hell·.
Polonius: Mad for thy love? (II. i. 83-84)
Ophelia’s description of Hamlet makes him seem miserable; similar to him grasping at life trying not to be dragged back into the “hell” he endured after losing his father. Ignoring any outside factors, Polonius assumes that the rejection of Hamlet by Ophelia drove him crazy. Wanting to use Hamlet’s craze to his advantage, he attempts to make himself less guilt by ‘admitting his faults’ and trying to protect Ophelia. This leads to him wanting to go before King Claudius and Queen Gertrude to tell them of his ‘discoveries’ of “utter love” (II. i. 119) to make himself seem similar to a hero (“Vital Signs”). Polonius’s self drive negatively impacts his daughter which results in her internalizing her stress and problems. Building the family conflict even further, Ophelia is pushed even closer to the point of breaking and externalizing her ‘behavioral’ problems (Park & Dotterer).
Polonius’s struggle brings him to express his concerns about Hamlet’s lunacy and love to Claudius. When reporting Hamlet’s behaviors, Polonius solely keeps his own intentions in mind not thinking of the effects it could have on his daughter. When he is questioned while reading Hamlet’s love letter out loud he makes sure to mention, “I will be faithful,” as if the King and Queen were initially doubting the letter (Shakespeare II. ii. 115). Speculating that the royal family is doubting him is a criticism which is common for people with control issues (Loewen). As Polonius is tearing Ophelia’s relationship with Prince Hamlet apart, she continues to move towards the edge mentally, having no control of her father handling his own destiny. Not having stability or control in life is a major variable when it comes to suicide (Cheng, et al.). Being set up by Polonius, she is being put on the path for the end.
After Polonius tells the King of the findings of Hamlet’s relationship with Ophelia, Claudius urges Polonius to send his daughter after Hamlet. Giving into the King’s pleading and his own curiosity, he sends her to try and discover the source of Hamlet’s lunacy or attachment. Ophelia goes to see her sweet Hamlet only to be verbally attacked and destroyed mentally.
Hamlet: Get thee to a nunnery. Why wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners? (Shakespeare III. i. 119-122)
When Hamlet tells Ophelia that he doesn’t love her it creates the image of a sword challenging her every move. Ophelia braces against his attacks acting alone as if she didn’t know he loved her in attempt to keep from mentally combusting. When Ophelia reacts calmly Hamlet twists the sword inside her saying she is a “sinner” that needs to take care her problem in a “nunnery” with God. Her emotions are pulled apart and challenged by Hamlet because Polonius wanted to fulfill the King’s demands to advance his own status· again rejecting Ophelia’s opinion. Being torn apart and ignored by her father destroys her confidence which leads to depression and suicidal tendencies (Cheng, et al.).
When Hamlet begins acting maliciously and Polonius is murdered Ophelia becomes completely insane. Ophelia lost two men in her life that controlled her every action and made all her decisions for her. Laertes blames Hamlet for his sister’s destroyed mental state and vows revenge. He doesn’t have enough effect on Ophelia as she has been pushed over the edge in the water to commit an unworthy suicide described as ‘murder by nature.’
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