Summary point of Hamlet's love for Ophelia.

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lmetcalf | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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Hamlet's love for Ophelia is an interesting topic to consider because while he says at her grave that he loves her "more than 40 thousand brothers could" he doesn't ever show that to the audience.  The only significant scene between Ophelia and Hamlet occurs in Act 3.  The audience knows that Ophelia is being used as "bait" by Polonius and Claudius to set up Hamlet so that they can observe his behavior towards Ophelia and see whether he is crazy because of the rejection by Ophelia or if his craziness has some other cause.  Hamlet is in an unfortunate situation here though. He has already expressed his suspicions of Polonius by calling him a fishmonger and Jepthah -- two references to daughters being used by fathers. Hamlet must continue his act of craziness, so by necessity, he feels the need to be rude and cruel to Ophelia in order to confuse and disquiet Claudius and Polonius. He tells her he never loved her; he tells her to get to a nunnery in order to stay away from sinful men; he tells her that she and all women tempt men with their womanly ways. Ophelia is so astounded by his speech that all she can do is call on God to restore him to his former self! She is heartbroken that "a noble mind is here o'erthrown" and that his "noble and sovereign reason, /[is] Like sweet bells jangled, out of tune and harsh." Hamlet directly asks her where her father is, and she lies. Hamlet realizes that he can't trust her, so he drives her further away, and he never again in the course of the play has a chance to talk to her again and make things right. In the next scene they are together at the play and he speaks in very bawdy and suggestive language to her.  Is this a sign of love? or disrespect? That is up to interpretation. By Act 4, Ophelia is so overwhelmed with all that happened with Hamlet that she literally loses her sanity and eventually commits suicide. At her funeral, Hamlet's declarations of love are too little, too late.

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