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You are watching: Why does hamlet call polonius a fishmonger

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Hamlet"s first reason for calling Polonius a fishmonger is probably to make the old man think he is insane--i.e. that he really doesn"t recognize him but thinks he is a complete stranger. Hamlet could have chosen any other name to call Polonius, but the idea of the old man...




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Hamlet"s first reason for calling Polonius a fishmonger is probably to make the old man think he is insane--i.e. that he really doesn"t recognize him but thinks he is a complete stranger. Hamlet could have chosen any other name to call Polonius, but the idea of the old man being a fishmonger appealed to Hamlet"s weird sense of humor. Polonius is like a fishmonger in that he seems to be popping up everywhere, that he is a nuisance, and that he is about as welcome as someone who smells of fish. Calling this distinguished elderly gentleman a fishmonger must have gotten a big laugh out of Shakespeare"s audience, and it probably still gets a laugh out of contemporary audiences, especially because of the startled reaction it gets from Polonius. We like Hamlet because, for one thing, he has a good sense of humor. Polonius has no sense of humor at all. The old courtier goes around picking up tidbits of information which he can report to the king. The old man trades in information just as a fishmonger trades in fish. Polonius is getting old. At one time he may have been more useful as a counselor, but his mind has become weak. The best he can do not is to act as a spy and a talebearer. Like a fishmonger, Polonius has a lowly function and a lowly status. He is no longer of much use to Claudius. Hamlet despises him. He enjoys insulting Polonius to his face--which he is able to do because Polonius is already sure the Prince is insane. Polonius would dearly love to find out what is really going on inside Hamlet"s mind. He is making a terrible nuisance of himself by interfering in Hamlet"s life on the King"s behalf. Hamlet reveals his resentment by choosing to call Polonius a fishmonger when he could have called him something a little less demeaning.