Aug 4, 1598 – William Cecil Dies
Chief advisor to Queen Elizabeth I for almost 50 years, William Cecil, Lord Burghley, may have been a model for Polonius, the moralizing, meddling royal counselor and father of Ophelia in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The nuggets of wisdom he compiled for his son bear a striking resemblance to the memorable (and much more quotable) counsel Polonius offers Laertes: “To thine own self be true” and “Neither a borrower nor a lender be.”
From Burghley’s advice arsenal: “Be not scurrilous in conversation, or satirical in thy jests” and “He that payeth another man’s debts seeketh his own decay.”
It is not known how William Shakespeare would have had access to Burghley’s family maxims.
For a detailed comparison of the two advisors’ dueling precepts, see Mark Alexander’s article Polonius As Lord Burghley.
Read Burghley’s Ten Precepts here — you’ll be a better person for it!