How can I explain with evidence Hamlet's love for his father and for Ophelia in Hamlet, the play?

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Despite Hamlet's many delays that seem as though he is unfeeling towards others, the prince of Denmark does love his father and Ophelia.

  • Hamlet's love for his father

In Act I, when the ghost of King Hamlet appears to him, asking Hamlet to "Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder,"  the agitated Hamlet responds,

Haste me to know't, that I, with wings as swift
As meditation or the thoughts of love,
May sweep to my revenge.(1.5.33-35)

Further in this act, the outraged Hamlet considers how pernicious his mother has been in her marriage of his uncle, the murderer of his father, the villain:

O most pernicious woman!(110)
O villain, villain, smiling, damned villain! (1.5.110-111) 

So, uncle, there you are. Now to my word:
It is ‘Adieu, adieu! Remember me.’
I have sworn't. (1.5.115-117)

When he talks with his mother in Act III, Gertrude scolds Hamlet for having offended Claudius, saying, "Hamlet, thou hast thy father much offended," and Hamlet retorts with irony in defense of his father, "Mother, you have my father much offended" (l.9).

Then, in Act IV, as Hamlet observes how Fortinbras is willing to sacrifice his life in order to regain lands his father lost, he is awed as he considers his father whom he has promised to avenge, and he vows to act,

How stand I then,
That have a father kill'd, a mother stain'd (4.4.58-59)

Of course, Hamlet enters into the duel with Laertes and the revenge upon Claudius is incidental despite all Hamlet's planning and hesitation.

  • Hamlet's love for Ophelia

With the opening of Act I, Scene 3, the reader learns of Hamlet's love for Ophelia as she has apparently told Laertes, her brother, that Hamlet has declared his love. But, Laertes warns her of this attention from Hamlet.

That Hamlet urges Ophelia

Get thee to a nunn'ry, why woulds't thou be a breeder of
sinners? (3.1.121)

indicates his love because he does not want her to waste her life on him as he is "a sinner."  Later at the play, Hamlet does insult Ophelia, but it is for the same reason that he tries to separate from her. 

The true evidence of Hamlet's love for Ophelia comes in Act V, Scene 1 as Hamlet jumps into the grave with Laertes, mourning and declaring,

I loved Ophelia. Forty thousand brothers
Could not, with all their quantity of love,
Make up my sum. (5.1.270-272)

Although Hamlet has genuine feelings for his father and for Ophelia, his flawed melancholic nature conspires with the Elizabethan cosmos to bring down problems upon him.