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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 ...

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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.

 

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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It behooves us to delve a bit deeper into the scene between Hamlet and Ophelia near the end of Act III, Scene 1 because the word "love" is used in such explosive terms. Hamlet can be seen to use love as an actual weapon here against Ophelia (whether or not we believe Hamlet truly did show love toward Ophelia in the past, or whether it was her own delusion). Ophelia has admitted in the past that Hamlet did give her "many tenders of affection" and now admits that she thought Hamlet was in love with her because she says, "Indeed, my lord, you made me believe so." Now, knowing this, remember that Hamlet has vowed to "put an antic disposition on." How could Hamlet be doing this in these lines? In line 115, Hamlet proclaims, "I did love you once," but in line 119, Hamlet proclaims, "I loved you not." Now, is Hamlet doing a good job at acting crazy by proclaiming one thing and then proclaiming the polar opposite, or has Hamlet actually gone insane? It is up to the audience (and in some cases the director) to decide. Keep in mind, though, that Hamlet's reasoning for acting crazy was to figure out whether Claudius actually killed Hamlet's father and, if so, to avenge his death. One has to wonder what Ophelia has to do with this. Yes, Hamlet knows that Ophelia has agreed to follow her father's advice and not pursue a relationship with Hamlet anymore. Hamlet knows that Ophelia is, by obeying her father, kind of "spying" on him (and in the worst case scenario, betraying him). Does messing with this young girl's emotions bring Hamlet any closer to killing Claudius and avenging dad's death? Let's examine one more admission by Hamlet before deciding.

God hath given you one face, and you make yourselves another. . . Go to, I'll no more on't; it hath made me mad.

Is Hamlet simply calling Ophelia "two-faced"? In other words, is she acting one way to her father and another to Hamlet himself? Did this realization make Hamlet angry, or is Hamlet admitting his own insanity by suggesting that Ophelia's behavior has driven him "mad"? There is no right or wrong answer here. Either point can be proven. Scholars continue to disagree. One thing is for sure, however: this part of the text lends itself very well to the theme of appearance vs. reality.

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Hamlet often appears to be “mad” in the play. The question is whether he is doing it on purpose or doing to keep the queen and king guessing about his intentions and state of mind. At one point in the play, he appears to push Ophelia away, telling her that he does not love her, regardless of how she might have interpreted his intentions.

About all we really have to go on is Hamlet’s reaction to her death. When he sees Ophelia’s brother, Laertes, jump in Ophelia’s grave, he leaps in and begins to struggle with him. Hamlet says:

I loved Ophelia. Forty thousand brothers could not with all their quantity of love make up my sum.

In other words, Hamlet says that he loved Ophelia much more than her brother could have. Is it true? I’m not sure that we can be certain one way or the other.

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