In Act II of Hamlet there are two instances of parental spying. I do not believe either of these are appropriate for two reasons. First I believe that parents should confront their kids instead of spying on them because there is a huge chance for miscommunication, and spying is hardly effective in fixing problems. Spying may be appropriate if it is well intended to help the children through something. Also, both of these instances were not done out of care for those being spied on. Yet, in these instances spying was not done out of care for the children.
Polonius sends a servant Reynaldo to go spy on Laertes while he is in France. Polonius wants Reynaldo to insult Laertes to his acquaintances as a way to get information. I do not know what Polonius is expecting to gain by spying on his son. It seems as though he wants to see Laertes fail at school, and he sets this up by giving Laertes’s friends information that does not look well upon him. Polonius seems jealous of his son at school, and he feels he is in competition with him. This spying would be more appropriate if Polonius had good intentions.
As Act II continues, Gertrude and Claudius send two of Hamlet’s old friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to spy on him. They want to find out the cause behind Hamlet’s brooding and sorrow. Claudius explains to Hamlet’s friends that he wants to help Hamlet recover from this sorrow from whatever “unknown afflicts him thus” (2.2.17). Claudius is putting on an act here. He wants to keep a close watch on Hamlet so that Hamlet does not find out that Claudius murdered King Hamlet. Claudius wants Hamlet to forget about his father’s death and move on so that Claudius can be king without that threat. The Queen wants Hamlet to return to his old self before she married his uncle. She is not concerned with his emotions, she just wants the tension between Hamlet and Claudius to end. Again this spying is not well intended. Claudius just wants to know what Hamlet is thinking so that he can stay one step ahead of Hamlet. Claudius does not want Hamlet to find out his secret. The Queen seems to be oblivious to this whole situation while she follows the King’s lead. This spying is not appropriate parental spying because Claudius and Gertrude have no motives to help Hamlet through whatever he is dealing with. Claudius simply wants to rid the threat Hamlet poses to his new kingdom.