30 July 2013

This above all

The Advice of Polonius

Guard your thoughts and be measured in your actions.

Hang on to true friends with all your might and be wary of unproven companions.

Avoid quarrels and hold firm to what is rightfully yours.

Listen much, speak less. Accept criticism and reserve judgment.

Live within your means and err on the side of modesty. Avoid the fancy, rich and gaudy. Look to the example of others.

Neither a borrower nor a lender be; a loan will often lose both itself and the friend. Borrowing makes one less thrifty.

This above all: to thine own self be true; and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst then be false to anyone.

Farewell: I give you my blessing!

—William Shakespeare; Hamlet; Act I, Scene III; Polonius gives advice to his son Laertes before the son leaves for his trip to France.

Painting: Jehan Georges Vibert (1840 - 1902), The Preening Peacock


  1. "This above all, to thine own self be true . . ." is also part of Portia's speech in The Merchant of Venice. Shakespeare must have pondered that insight often.

    On another note, with your love of art you might be interested in my review of Stephanie Cowell's novel, Claude and Camille, a Novel of Monet.

    Have a great day.

    1. Thanks for visiting Elizabeth. I will definitely want to take a look at your review. It may motivate me to get the book. I did a search regarding what you mentioned about Portia, this is what I found at Gayles' Bard Blog.

      Taken out of context, the rhetoric of the speech is sublime, moving, and utterly compelling. It's one of those great Christian Humanist moments that Will's so good at. But in context, it's something else entirely--because only a few lines later, the Christians--and Portia in particular--will prove to be vindictive and merciless. Like Polonius's "to thine own self be true" speech in Hamlet, this one exceeds the moral limits of its speaker. Polonius is a sententious fool who uses his own daughter to curry favor with a corrupt regime, but his advice isn't without wisdom. Similarly, Portia's mercy speech reminds us of her own words in Act 1. "I can easier teach twenty what were good to be done," she tells Nerissa, "than to be one of the twenty to follow mine own teaching." http://gaylesbardblog.blogspot.com/2010/03/quality-of-mercy.html

  2. Wow! Kinda reminds one that talking the talk isn't the same as walking the walk! :-)


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