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Jephthah's Daughter
Allusion
Act 2,
Scene 2
Lines 397-413

An explanation of the allusion to Jephthah in Act 2, Scene 2 of myShakespeare’s Hamlet.

Hamlet   

Oh Jephthah, Judge of Israel, what a treasure hadst thou? 

Polonius

What a treasure had he, my lord?

Hamlet   

Why, 
"One fair daughter and no more,
 The which he lovèd passing well."

Polonius

[Aside] Still on my daughter.

Hamlet

Am I not i'th' right, old Jephthah?

Polonius   

If you call me Jephthah, my lord, I have a 
daughter that I love passing well.

Hamlet

Nay, that follows not.    

Polonius 

What follows then, my lord? 

Hamlet   

Why, 
"As by lot, God wot," 
and then you know, 
“It came to pass, as most like it was." 
The first row of the pious chanson will show you more;
 for look where my abridgments come.

Jephthah is a figure from the Bible who made a vow that if God would help him defeat the Ammonites, he would make a sacrifice of the first thing he saw when he returned home. He was victorious, but the first thing he saw was his daughter. He kept his vow and sacrificed her. Might Hamlet be suggesting something about Polonius and his treatment of Ophelia?