In Hamlet, does Hamlet really love Ophelia?

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Even Hamlet himself, in the course of the play, contradicts himself on this matter.  When Ophelia speaks to him early on, to give him his love tokens back, he tells her, "I loved you not"(III.i.120) right after telling her that "I loved you once" (III.i.116).  From this we can gather...

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Even Hamlet himself, in the course of the play, contradicts himself on this matter.  When Ophelia speaks to him early on, to give him his love tokens back, he tells her, "I loved you not"(III.i.120) right after telling her that "I loved you once" (III.i.116).  From this we can gather that he did love her at one time, but is claiming to not love her now.  It is hard to know whether to believe him though, since he potentially knows that her father, and the king and queen are listening in on this conversation.  The entire thing could be staged for their benefit, to throw them off.  After this he rants and raves about the fickle nature of women, and tells Ophelia to get to a nunnery; possibly an indirect hit at Hamlet's mother.

Later, at Ophelia's grave, Hamlet declares, "I loved Ophelia:  forty thousand brothers could not, with all their quantity of love, make up my sum" (V.i.292-4).  Here he claims to love her 40 times more than her brother does.  I tend to believe him more here; he is reacting freshly to her unexpected death.  Which makes it all the more tragic that he so harshly rejected her, contributing to her road to madness and death.

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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.

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Indeed he does.  It is out of love for her that he chooses not to involve her in what he must do to bring justice to Denmark.  He loves her but cannot see what possible good could come of it (especially for her) as he deals with his uncle and mother's treachery.  He would prefer that she get to a "nunnery" than to become lustful and sinful like his mother.  He knows that she is being manipulated by her father, Polonius, and it infuriates him.  Check out the following website to search for specific passages for evidence of Hamlet's love.  Of special note is the scene at Ophelia's burial.

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