Readers of the play Hamlet by William Shakespeare have always wondered if Hamlet genuinely loved Ophelia. This is primarily based on the fact that the play depicts several instances where Hamlet appears to be using her. However, the play has more solid evidence that demonstrates Hamlet’s love for Ophelia. His actions around her when they are alone together and his expression of intimate feelings towards her appear genuine. Throughout the play, Hamlet shows unflinching love for Ophelia. It is vital to highlight the pieces of evidence from the play that bolster the claim that Hamlet really loves Ophelia.
In Act III, part I, Hamlet expressively declares his love for Ophelia by stating that “I did love you” (125). Contextually, he confesses a time in the past he did not love her, but now he does. Although this statement is sometimes considered untrue due to the fact that Hamlet is aware that he is being watched by Polonius, Ophelia’s father, Hamlet goes ahead to prove his love for her. This is depicted by his question to Ophelia about the whereabouts of her father. When she replied that her father is at home, he states that “Let the doors be shut upon him that he may play the fool nowhere but in ‘s own house” (143-144) This is an indication that Hamlet is aware that Polonius is observing him from a distance, but this does not prevent him from declaring his love for her.
Hamlet’s love for Ophelia is again confirmed when he advises her to go to the nunnery. This statement might appear to be a mockery of Ophelia, but there is a very high possibility that she is expecting his child. He seems to be concerned about the plausibility of bringing up an innocent child into such a world, which he describes as evil. This shows that he cares for her and her expectant child (Shakespeare, 2019). He is indeed looking out for her and making efforts to ensure that her unborn child, as well as herself, has a promising future.
Hamlet is smart and philosophical in his dealings. He is aware that his actions are being watched by people who already have formed opinions against him. He does create an impression that he does not love her when the true sense of the matter is that he is in deep love with her. He seems to be applying a reserve psychology concept to throw people off and confuse them with his real intentions (Shakespeare, 2019). To his watchers, his message is simple; he does not love Ophelia. But deep within himself, he is deeply in love with her.
Hamlet’s love for Ophelia is further demonstrated through a letter that he sent to her where he declares that he loves her undoubtedly. He goes ahead and states that all other things around him could be fake, but his love for her is genuine. The fact that he openly revealed his true feelings for her is a clear indication that his love for her is real. However, it was this letter that became the turning point for hamlet’s expression of love towards her. Upon receiving the love letter from Hamlet, Ophelia shares it with her father. But Hamlet had little trust for Polonius due to the latter’s attitude toward him. To continue loving and protecting her, Hamlet hatched a plan to act like a mad person. This way, he could successfully manage to hide his intentions.
Hamlet’s love for Ophelia is again demonstrated when he discovers that she is dead. The news of her death throws him off balance and leaves him dejected. His actions after that speak of someone left with a void that cannot be easily replaced. Indeed, such actions demonstrate deep feelings towards someone. When he meets Laertes at the graveyard, he confronts him and demands to know why he accuses him of not loving the late. He again reaffirms that he loved her. He treats his love for Ophelia as too superior that supersedes the combined love of forty thousand brothers.
Ophelia always sided with her father, who happened to be a friend to Claudius. This is one of the reasons why Hamlet found it difficult to openly express his love for her. By aiding her father to spy on him through the love letters, Ophelia was not leaving Hamlet with any option but to behave the way he did. Throughout the play, Shakespeare presents two young people who undergo various forms of suffering because of love but cannot openly express it due to the failures of the elders.
There was absolutely no reason for Hamlet to vehemently defend his love for Ophelia posthumously if he did not love her while she was alive. This is an actual demonstration that he really loved her. He is at pains with the loss of his love up to the point that he wishes that he was buried with her. He does not see the need to live anymore now that the love of his life has died. Death is a painful loss indeed but losing someone with whom you shared intimacy can be traumatic (Shakespeare, 2019). Therefore, it is apparent that Hamlet had a genuine love for Ophelia.
The way that Hamlet treats Ophelia can be construed as the actions of someone who is not in love with her. He is carried away by acts of revenge that he seems not to care about the feelings of Ophelia. He also uses derogatory terms to describe her situation. By advising her to go to the “nunnery,” Hamlet might be implying that Ophelia is a prostitute who belongs to the brothels. These can be seen as outbursts of a person, not in love. However, Hamlet is playing games and uses non-conventional approaches to communicate with his love.
The question of whether Hamlet loved Ophelia runs throughout the play. From one perspective, it might appear as if Hamlet does not love her and is only out to use her in an attempt to get at his father. However, a deeper analysis of events suggests that Hamlet was forced to behave that way because of the circumstances that surrounded his love for her. His words and actions towards Ophelia could be misconstrued to mean that he does not love her. However, the true nature of things is that he deeply loved her, and he had to devise ways of showing this, considering the fact that society had already judged and dismissed him.
Hamlet’s love letters to Ophelia eloquently state the fact that he loves her. Only Laertes and Polonius do not trust the sincerity of his love towards her. According to Polonius, men of Hamlet’s age are known to deceive women instead of loving them. On his part, Laertes thinks that Hamlet’s relationship with Ophelia is for purposes of political expediency. These are wrong hindsight that is generally based on assumptions without proof. At the graveyard, Gertrude expresses her wish to have been Hamlet’s lover. This is another indication that Hamlet had shown characteristics that many interpreted as those of a true lover. If he did not love Ophelia, as many suggest, Gertrude could not have expressed her admiration for his love. Thus, it is proven that Hamlet was seriously in love with Ophelia.
Shakespeare, W. (2019). Hamlet. Independently Published.