Does Hamlet really love Ophelia? What tells us this from the play?

Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that part of the reason that Hamlet does not love Ophelia is because of the character flaws revealed throughout the course of the drama.  A critical flaw, almost tragic, that Hamlet possesses is his propensity to allow his function to be smothered by surmise.  Simply put, Hamlet is incapable of taking action.  His consistency in the lack of decision in his actions would prevent him from being in love with Ophelia.  One of the themes that Shakespeare develops about love in the play is that it involves complete immersion and decisive commitment.  Few, if any, of the characters display this to one another, which might be why there is such a glaring lack of love present.  Hamlet is reflective of this as he seems to have one portion of his psyche immersed in one element of consciousness while the other portion is engaged in something else.  This divided and tortured psyche is revealed in Hamlet's actions towards Ophelia.  On one hand, he does need her love and loyalty, as he receives it from few others.  Yet, he cannot bring himself to committing himself to her love, constantly repelling her with insults and cruelty, actions that are barriers in experiencing the true essence of love to one another.

mkcapen1 | Student

I do not believe that Hamlet loves Ophelia.  I think she is more of a sexual being to him.  She is more in love with him.  He tells her that he does not love, but she continues to believe that he does and that he will marry her.  Ophelia's love for Hamlet eventually leads her to commit suicide.  Ophelia's brother warns her that Hamlet is only playing with her.

"For Hamlet and the trifling of his favor

Hold it a fashion and a toy in blood,"

Hamlet is very cruel to Ophelia and accuses her of whoring around.  He tells her to go to a nunnery, implying she is sinful.  Hamlet dislikes woman perhaps brought on by his mother's affection for Claudius, his father's murder.  In addition, there is some evidence to support that Hamlet may have inappropriate feelings for his own mother.  Therefore, he is not mentally free to love Ophelia. 

Hamlet relates to Ophelia in this manner:

"As if he had been loosened out of hell,  To speak horrors-he comes before me."