Analects of the Core: Shakespeare on being true to oneself

The Bard

This above all, to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

– Polonius, chief counselor to the king, in Hamlet by William Shakespeare, Act 1 Scene. NB: In view of the surging enthusiasm for the Doctor Who series, we would be remiss not to point out actor David Tennant’s critically-hailed portrayal of the titular gloomy Danish prince for BBC television.

Tenant as Hamlet


James Wood posted on September 18, 2010 at 2:56 pm

I’ve always loved this line, but in seeing it now I ask myself whether it is necessarily true. The fact that it is spoken by the pompous windbag Polonius is perhaps reason enough to be suspicious of it. If I am an inveterate liar, and I am true to myself, must I not be false to others? Or why can’t I be true to myself because that is best for me, and false to others if that is also best for me?

Marguerite posted on September 20, 2010 at 9:58 am

Polonius does love his son and intends to be truthful towards him, yet is perhaps too overprotective. His relationship with his children is rather emotionally honest, yet practically suspicious; he is true in words (towards his son), but not in action.

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