Did Hamlet and Ophelia sleep together?

The text is ambiguous on whether or not Hamlet and Ophelia slept together. However, it is clear that they were involved in some form of a romantic relationship.

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The question of whether or not Hamlet and Ophelia have consummated their romantic relationship is a big one for both the audience and the characters within Hamlet itself. The audience knows that Hamlet and Ophelia were involved in an intense romantic relationship before the start of the story: they exchanged...

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The question of whether or not Hamlet and Ophelia have consummated their romantic relationship is a big one for both the audience and the characters within Hamlet itself. The audience knows that Hamlet and Ophelia were involved in an intense romantic relationship before the start of the story: they exchanged love tokens and poems, and the two were close enough that Ophelia's family is nervous about the possibility of her being seduced and then abandoned by Hamlet. This would make her unsuitable to marry anyone, regardless of rank, so Polonius and Laertes warn her against succumbing to any attempt at sex Hamlet might try to initiate.

Now, the scene where Ophelia receives this warning can be played any number of ways by actors. Some, such those in the 1948 film version, have Ophelia lightly mocking her father and brother as she listens to their lecture on proper behavior, suggesting she has not slept with Hamlet at all and never intends to do as much before marriage. However, adaptations such as the 1996 film present a more guilty Ophelia and explicitly show flashbacks of Hamlet and Ophelia making love in secret, casting this scene in a different light.

Hamlet's comments to Ophelia at The Mousetrap also contain a sexual charge that suggests greater intimacy between them than would have been permitted between an unmarried couple at the time. He claims he wants to "lie in [her] lap," which causes an embarrassed reaction from Ophelia, who assumes he means sex ("country matters") rather than lying his head on her knees. Once again, depending on the actress playing Ophelia, this could be the blushing of a virginal young woman unused to such comments or someone fearing a secret might be exposed in front of the whole court.

Lastly, Ophelia's mad songs give the audience plenty of food for thought regarding Hamlet and Ophelia's potential sexual history. Note how Ophelia tends to sing about subjects close to her emotional life, such as the death of her father (the alleged cause of her madness). She sings of mourning at a graveside. However, she also sings about women losing their chastity to dishonest men who promise to marry them so long as they submit beforehand:

By Gis and by Saint Charity,
Alack, and fie for shame!
Young men will do't, if they come to't;
By cock, they are to blame.
Quoth she, before you tumbled me,
You promised me to wed.
So would I ha' done, by yonder sun,
An thou hadst not come to my bed.

While Ophelia's singing about something is not definitive proof that it happened to her, the song's connection to her family's own fears of her being ruined by Hamlet makes a compelling case that Ophelia might be closer to the seduced woman in the song than everyone thinks.

Regardless, the play is never conclusive on the matter. Theater groups are free to present Ophelia and Hamlet's relationship as consummated or unconsummated without risking infidelity to Shakespeare's text, since the text itself never makes what happened between them completely clear.

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