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What does this quote from Hamlet's letter to Ophelia mean: "Doubt thou that stars..."?

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eemanay | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted October 24, 2007 at 9:55 PM via web

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What does this quote from Hamlet's letter to Ophelia mean: "Doubt thou that stars..."?

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luannw | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted October 29, 2007 at 8:19 PM (Answer #2)

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This is a quote from a love letter Hamlet wrote to Ophelia, who dutifully passed it on to Polonius, for young women were not to receive letters from men they were not betrothed to. Polonius now reads it to the King and Queen, as is his duty to do: He wants to let them know that he forbids Ophelia to think of Prince Hamlet's love and that this forbidden love might be the cause of Hamlet's madness. 

Hamlet is hypothetically contemplating Ophelia's possible doubt of things that are fixed as a way of forming an analogy to the undoubtable truth of his love for her. 

Though the logical construction is more complex than this, one way to understand what Hamlet says is to think he suggests that if, in her heart ("In her excellent white bosom"), she ever doubts that the stars are made of fire, that the sun moves, that truth can lie, she must never doubt that he loves her.  He is posing the hypothetical situation in which Ophelia may doubt things that are clear facts and saying that, no matter what, she must not doubt his love.

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