What are Hamlet's and Laertes' relationships with Ophelia?

Expert Answers
esoppelt eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In William Shakespeare's play Hamlet, Ophelia is one of the main characters. The title character, Hamlet, is in love with her and she is in love with him. Laertes is Ophelia's brother. He leaves the court of Denmark at the beginning of the play to study in France.

When Hamlet finds out that his uncle killed his father, he begins to act insane to try to trick his uncle into admitting his guilt. Claudius (Hamlet's uncle) and Polonius (Ophelia's father and Claludius' advisor) decide to use Ophelia to try to trick Hamlet into explaining his behavior. Hamlet feels betrayed by Ophelia siding with his uncle and ends the relationship with her. 

Ophelia and Hamlet's relationship is further complicated when Hamlet kills Polonius. Polonius spies on a conversation between Hamlet and Hamlet's mother and Hamlet stabs him. 

When Ophelia's father dies, she goes insane mourning for her father. Eventually she commits suicide. Laertes returns for the funeral where he and Hamlet fight over Ophelia's body, both claiming to have loved her more. 

Finally, Hamlet and Laertes fight a duel over the death of Ophelia and Polonius. Both men are killed in the fight.