Did Hamlet Really Love Ophelia

Categories: William Shakespeare

Shakespeare’s Hamlet has many themes throughout the play such as revenge, politics, madness, and more. One theme that can not be ignored is love, specifically the love between Hamlet and Ophelia. Throughout the entire play, Hamlet’s love for Ophelia is questioned. It is arguable that Hamlet and Ophelia really do love each other or that they do not. Love is a very strong and powerful word and it does not really seem like that is what Hamlet and Ophelia mutually have.

On the surface, it may seem that Hamlet and Ophelia are truly in love, but when taking a closer look, it becomes apparent that is not exactly the case.

The fact of the matter is that Hamlet does not truly love Ophelia. For starters, Hamlet confesses his love for Ophelia by saying “I did love you once.” (Act 3, Scene 1), but then follows up by saying he actually never loved her in the first place. Later on during Hamlet and Ophelia’s conversation, Hamlet asks Ophelia where her father is only to hear that Polonius is home.

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Hamlet responds to the news by saying ‘Let the doors be shut upon him that he may play the fool nowhere but in’s own house.’ (Act 3, Scene 1). This implies that Hamlet knows he is being watched by Polonius. If that is the case, it wouldn’t make sense why Hamlet would try to hide his love for Ophelia from Polonius. There is no obvious reason for this. Back in Elizabethan times, marriage needed approval from the parents and it could not be decided solely between the couple.

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Knowing this, if Hamlet really loves Ophelia, he would make himself seem polite, respectful, and responsible in the eyes of the father of the woman he is in love with, not the exact opposite. Since Hamlet does not actually have authentic feelings for Ophelia though, he does not try to convince and impress Polonius for his approval and blessing for the two to wed.

Furthermore, Hamlet’s false love for Ophelia can also be seen in the letter he sends her. In his letter, Hamlet writes “…never doubt, I love.” (Act 2, Scene 2) to assure her that his feelings for her are genuine, despite what may be false around her. This seems to be a heartfelt letter between two young lovers, but in reality, it is a sign that Hamlet is using Ophelia for his own motives. Hamlet knows that Ophelia is very obedient to her father and will follow his orders. He also knows that as soon as Ophelia receives this letter, she will most likely show it to her father instantly, which is exactly what happens. With this knowledge, Hamlet chooses to send the letter because he believes it will make him appear mad, bringing him closer to proving his uncle/stepfather, King Claudius, killed his father. He is not trying to protecting Ophelia. In addition, in the letter Hamlet writes “Doubt thou the stars are fire, Doubt that the sun doth move,. Doubt truth to be a liar,. But never doubt I love” (Act 2, Scene 2). Against popular belief, Hamlet is not trying to tell Ophelia to never doubt his love, even if she doubts everything else. He intentionally words the sentence ambiguously conveying “doubt” as “suspect”.

Hamlet is not trying to express his love for Ophelia, he is refuting it. The most prominent sign of Hamlet’s false love for Ophelia is him driving her mad and ultimately leading her to her own death. In Act 4, it is obvious that Ophelia is not in a good place and has probably gone mad. She grieves over the death of her father, frantically sings songs, and dies. The story of her death that some choose to believe where Ophelia climbed up the tree and accidentally fell leading her to drown, is not wholeheartedly true. Ophelia wanted to die. Of course she was morose after her father passing, but she was also heartbroken because of Hamlet. In her frantic songs, Ophelia makes sexual references expressing her obsession with the now absent Hamlet saying “Young men will do’t if they come to’t / By Cock, they are to blame” (Act 4, Scene 5). Ophelia is talking about a man who promises her love, Hamlet, but doesn’t follow up on his promise and leaves her after a short time. Ophelia also makes remarks about a man that will wed her soon with “You promised me to wed, / So would I ‘a’ done, by yonder sun, / An thou hadst not come to my bed.” (Act 4, Scene 5).

Unfortunately, this man, Hamlet, does not wed her and leaves her for no obvious reasons. All of these remarks show that Hamlet has broken Ophelia’s heart and mind and how because of this, she no longer wants to live. After Ophelia’s death, Hamlet confronts Laertes about his accusations that he never loved Ophelia and defend his love for her. Hamlet tells Laertes that he is upset and melancholy about losing Ophelia just like Laertes when he says “I loved Ophelia. Forty thousand brothers could not with all their quantity of love make up my sum.” (Act 5, Scene 1). Hamlet follows with “Be buried quick with her, and so will I.” (Act 5, Scene 1) expressing that he feels like he has lost his will to live now that Ophelia is dead. The truth is, everything Hamlet says to Laertes in this conversation is a lie. Even if Hamlet actually believes what he is saying, actions speak louder than words.

Why would someone treat the “love of their life” so poorly with a great deal of disrespect? If Hamlet truly loved and cared for Ophelia, why would he take out his anger towards his mom and his frustration out on Ophelia in Act 3 and treat her so rude? Why would he use her for his own motives regarding Claudius? Why would he neglect and abuse her? Because Hamlet does not love Ophelia. In conclusion, Hamlet confessing his love to Ophelia in person, writing her a letter about how he feels for her, defending his love for her even after her death can come off to some as a two young people in love but sadly, it is not. Hamlet never loved Ophelia. He never even showed any true signs of loving her when really looking. Hamlet was just using her to his own expense.

Cite this page

Did Hamlet Really Love Ophelia. (2021, Mar 18). Retrieved from http://studymoose.com/did-hamlet-really-love-ophelia-essay

Did Hamlet Really Love Ophelia

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