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ukteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hamlet is a complex character. The evidence that he loved Ophelia has been identified above. The evidence that he didn't love her is also identified.

What do we make of the contradictions?

He has courted her, declared love, given her gifts, even Gertrude said she had hoped Ophelia would be Hamlet's wife. One thing that's clear about Hamlet is that he is sincere. His pretence of madness is a bizarre game; flippant yet deadly serious. Beneath it all he despises pretence, as evidenced by his mother's behaviour. So let's say he did love Ophelia sincerely.

The events of the beginning of the play have thrown him. He is depressed, mistrustful, in a state of shock, overwhelmed, in no state to gently court his sweet girlfriend.

The play is contradictory about Hamlet's age, but he behaves like an adolescent. He is shocked by his father's death and mother's remarriage - psychologically spot-on; the stuff that sends teenagers to councillors in profound distress. He doesn't trust his friends, but depends and clings to one special person - Horatio. He believes he is surrounded by tedious old fools; etc.

He can't cope with any female, and projects his disgust with Gertrude onto Ophelia, a sign of immaturity and inability to understand his own psyche. It is not totally unexpected that teenage boys who've been hurt once might be sour and vindictive to other girls.

In a moment of profound distress—Ophelia's funeral—his earlier feelings of love and guilt explode. He behaves in an uncontrolled way, an outburst of emotion that he can't contain.

Yes, of course Hamlet did love and still loves Ophelia. He is a wonderful, intelligent, tortured character. But he is also the immature lad that can't handle his emotions and hits out blindly at a vulnerable girlfriend and then feels guilt. 

Long before the era when psychology was invented intelligent playwrights depended on observation. That's what Shakespeare has done brilliantly.


robertwilliam eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Yes - I think the play makes pretty clear that he does. Firstly, Polonius and Laertes have both heard that Hamlet has been chasing after Ophelia and counsel her to avoid his love - as he, as the heir to the throne, is way out of her social class and therefore not marriage material.

Polonius later reads us a love letter which provides pretty clear evidence that Hamlet is indeed passionately in love with Ophelia:

'Doubt thou the stars are fire;
Doubt that the sun doth move;
Doubt truth to be a liar;
But never doubt I love.
'O dear Ophelia, I am ill at these numbers;
I have not art to reckon my groans: but that
I love thee best, O most best, believe it. Adieu.
'Thine evermore most dear lady, whilst
this machine is to him, HAMLET.'

He is, admittedly, pretty horrible to her in the 'get thee to a nunnery' scene which in most texts follows the 'to be or not to be' soliloquy. But then, does he know that Claudius and Polonius are watching him? Is it all an act?

There's an interpretation which argues that Hamlet doesn't really know what he feels and is consumed by grief: Ophelia is simply collateral damage of the other events in his life. But I wouldn't go along with it. At her funeral, Hamlet cries out to Laertes, Ophelia's brother:

I loved Ophelia: forty thousand brothers
Could not, with all their quantity of love,
Make up my sum.

He loved Ophelia forty thousand times more than her brother did. Pretty clear, I'd say!

luannw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Yes, I do believe the text shows Hamlet loved Ophelia.  There are four scenes that make this apparent for us.

In Act 2, scene 1, Ophelia tells her father, Polonius, that she fears Hamlet is "mad" for her love.  She describes how a distressed Hamlet came into her room, grabbed her by the wrist, backed away and just looked into her face, studying it before he slowly backed out of the room without looking back at the door. 

In Act 2, scene 2, Polonius tells Claudius and Gertrude that Hamlet is love-sick for Ophelia and cites a letter Hamlet wrote in which he calls Ophelia, "...the heavenly idol of my soul..." and a poem in which he says that he loves her.  

In Act 3, scene 1, Ophelia returns to Hamlet some letters and presents he wrote to her in which he professed his love for her. 

Finally, in Act 5, scene 1, Hamlet jumps into Ophelia's open grave and professes to Laertes and the others that he loved Ophelia more than 40,000 brothers.  So, yes, I do believe Hamlet loved Ophelia.

Jamie Wheeler eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Based upon Hamlet's behavior, in my estimation, Hamlet could not possibly have truly loved Ophelia and treated her as he did.  His vitriolic speech in Act III, scene i, is certainly more than necessary when he demands, "Get thee to a nunnery!" and then irrationally accuses her, and all women, of the crimes his mother is guilty of.

After this vicious attack, he has the nerve to lay upon her lap and, while pretending love, continue to insult and berate her.

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Maybe he does.... Even though he treats her horridly, he may be reacting to his hatred of what he sees his mother doing, which he makes a symbol of the weakness of all women.  "Frailty, thy name is woman," he says.  His mother is so morally and psychologically weak that she must immediately attach herself to the first available man after King Hamlet's death.

dkazoom | Student

Yes Hamlet did truly love her. When he rejected her by calling her a whore and such, he was descending into madness and he couldn't think straight. He may have also thought that looking after her by marrying her or even being in a relationship with her was to much effort as he was so dedicated at trying get revenge for his fathers murder.

But it hit him hard when he saw the woman he loved in her grave and dead that he threw himself at her and told Laertes that he loved her "more than 40 000 brothers ever could have loved". So why would he say that if he did not love her??

angelamarie88 | Student

3) Zeroing in on one aspect of that stress, as it pertains to Hamlet's feelings toward all women (Ophelia included): Hamlet is thoroughly disgusted with his mother for shedding no tears after her husband's death, then turning around and marrying the her husband's brother, who, let me repeat, was the one who murdered his brother! Young Hamlet's disgust for his mother ("O most pernicious woman!" Act 1 Scene 5, line 105) becomes a disgust for all women in general. And Ophelia is no exception to his umbrella of disgust.

angelamarie88 | Student

1) Ophelia's brother & father instructed her to reject any romantic overtures from Hamlet, and she obediently agrees to do so. That is, she would be rejecting any romantic gestures from him if he had been giving them lately, but he hadn't.

2) On top of the fact that Ophelia has had a cold shoulder for Hamlet (Act 2 Scene 2, Lines 105-108), within the last two months Hamlet's life has become agonizingly stressful. His father dies. His mother marries his father's brother (!) within two months of her husband dying(!!) and THEN Hamlet learns that his uncle is the one who killed his father(!!!) To top it all off, Hamlet meets the ghost of his deceased father who is the one that informs Hamlet of the murderer's identity...then the ghost instructs young Hamlet to avenge his death. Talk about stress!

angelamarie88 | Student

2) As the play goes on, Ophelia discusses with Hamlet some love letters he had written to her (which he denies (Act 3 Scene 1, lines 93-102) because he is currently disgusted with all women in general as I'll give you the reason for in a moment)  but life circumstances and complications have long since begun to dissipate Hamlet's love for her, turning his love for her to bitterness. His love for her has turned to bitterness because:

angelamarie88 | Student

Yes, Hamlet did love Ophelia at some point before the play began, and we know this because:

1) Ophelia tells her father that Hamlet has "importuned me with love in an honorable fashion" (Act I, Scene 3, line 109), when her father tries to persuade her out of falling in love with Hamlet. The only people who are dark and spiteful at this point are those who are working to dissuade Ophelia from loving Hamlet. Hamlet is sweet and blameless at this point, and so is Ophelia. But the love overtures have stopped as the play opens, because that's when Hamlet's life starts to become more complicated.

sura2088 | Student

may be he loved her in his own way .... he was having a bad situation and that we couldn see the romantic side of him ..

lksettle | Student

No, Hamlet does not love Ophelia. He cheapens her by continuously telling her to take herself to a whorehouse, plus he never apologizes. When he stabs her father in Act 3, scene 4, he not once shows remorse for killing someone Ophelia loves. He never apologizes for killing her father, nor gives even a hint that he feels bad for killing someone close to Ophelia. Finally, Hamlet concentrates more on his mother's sexuality than he does Ophelia's. Though it is never said, we are subject to believe that Ophelia takes part in the "Maiden's complaint." Through her songs we assume that her and Hamlet had previously been lovers, but because he "tainted" her, he no longer loves her.


alaska | Student

I believe Hamlet did initially love Ophelia, as he tells her - "I did love thee once." As he is ranting (down to his 'madness'), like answer #3 says he uses harsh words against Ophelia- "Get thee to a nunnery", "breeder of sinners" however I feel he is testing Ophelia's commitment to him in this scene - for when she answers Hamlet with along the lines of "you let me believe (you loved me)", it was as though she doubted Hamlet's love - and thus, he tells her in frustration - "I never loved thee." 

trapazoidal123 | Student

I believe that Hamlet truly did love Ophelia. Throughout the play he shows concern for her well being and state of mind. In the final act of Hamlet when Hamlet finds out that Ophelia is being buried he professes that he loved Ophelia more than 40,000 brothers thus showing his affection for her. 

circlecarft | Student

A possible answer may be that Hamlet did secretly love Ophelia the whole way through, but hides this love (by insulting her etc) because he suspected spying and eventually found out that polonius and claudius were trying to spy on him. So he deliberately insulted Ophelia to give the king the thought that Ophelia was indeed not the cause of Hamlet's so called madness. When she dies in the end, he regrets everything he did to her and sayd to Laertes that he loved her more than her brother did.