Therelationship Polonius has with his children is far worse than the relationshipHamlet has with his parents. Polonius considers himself to be the boss ofOphelia, while Ophelia feels she is obligated to obey her father’s commands outof fear. Polonius uses his daughter as a tool for his own gain and is moreobsessed with the honour of his family than his daughter’s feelings.
In thefirst act, Polonius warns Ophelia about getting too close to Hamlet. He doesnot want her to jeopardise their high-ranking position within the court by herbeing a vulnerable ‘woodcock’ to Hamlet’s supposedly insincere ‘vows’ (Act 1,Scene 3, ll.114-116). He commands Ophelia to:Tenderyourself more dearly, Or(not to crack the wind of the poor phrase, Runningit thus) you’ll tender me a fool (Act 1, Scene 3, ll.107-109). This shows thatPolonius is acting only in his own interest, rather than in Ophelia’s. He ismore concerned about his place in the kingdom than his own daughter’swell-being.
Ophelia simply responds to his command, ‘I shall obey, my lord’ (Act1, Scene 3, l.136). Polonius forces Ophelia to depend on him, and she is alwaysobedient. Throughout the play, Polonius considers his opinion to be the onlycorrect outlook, and Ophelia blindly follows his commands. Hamlet callsPolonius a ‘fishmonger’ (Act 2, Scene2, l.172), which is a deprecating term fora pimp, when referring to how he controls Ophelia. This was Elizabethan slangfor “brothel keeper”, and therefore would have been considered a major insultby the original audience.
This demonstrates that Hamlet is aware that therelationship between Polonius and Ophelia is not a good one. Moreover, Poloniususes his daughter as a spy to observe Hamlet’s actions in order to report backto Claudius, and because of her loyalties towards her father Ophelia complieswith her father’s wishes. This shows a bad dynamic as Polonius is essentiallyjust using his daughter to his advantage without considering her opinions orfeelings about it. Polonius’s intention is to make himself appear to be a greatfather, but Ophelia’s dependency on Polonius is what eventually causes her togo mad and commit suicide after his death. This shows she loved her father verymuch, even though he treated her so badly, it also shows how much she dependedon him.