In Act III Scene 1 of Hamlet, what indications are there that Hamlet really loved Ophelia?

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The answer to this question is very interesting as it depends a lot as to whether Hamlet is aware or not that he and Ophelia are being spied upon by Polonius and Claudius. Some productions, such as Brannagh's movie version of the play, have Hamlet realising half way through his conversation with Ophelia that they are being spied upon, and this explains his anger and his sudden change in attitude towards Ophelia. Either way, he does clearly say to Ophelia that he loved her in the following speech:

I did love you once.

Even though Hamlet is rude and questions her "honesty," it could be argued that this one line does indicate that he did genuinely love Ophelia, and that his need to feign madness as part of his strategy has forced him to ignore his love and his feelings towards her in order to pursue his vengeance against Claudius. Remember that when he is at Ophelia's funeral he declares his love for Ophelia saying that he loved her "more than a thousand brothers." Hamlet's actions in this scene therefore need to be placed in the context of his plan of showing madness and also the possibility that he may be aware of eavesdroppers.

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