Why does Hamlet treat Ophelia poorly in Hamlet?

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Hamlet is cruel to Ophelia in Act 3, sc. 1 because he is frustrated by many things. He is frustrated with his mother, he is frustrated that Ophelia stopped seeing him with apparently little or no explanation, and he is frustrated with himself for not having done as his father's ghost asked him to do (kill Claudius). At a time when he could have really used a comforting, understanding woman in his life, he has none and that causes him to be bitter and angry.

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In Act 1, sc. 3, Polonius instructs Ophelia to stay away from Hamlet for fear that Hamlet will merely use Ophelia, then toss her aside thus embarrassing Polonius and the family.  Ophelia does as her father says which explains the scene that Ophelia describes to her father from Act 2,...

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sc. 1 in which she tells of a distraught Hamlet coming to her room.  That is all set up for Act 3, sc. 1, where Hamlet does treat Ophelia badly.  She returns letters to him that he had written to her and this seems to set him off on his tirade against her and against women in general.  He seems to know, too, that Polonius is spying on him and when he asks Ophelia where her father is, she responds, "At home, my lord," which makes Hamlet even more angry.  His anger toward her is an anger more out of frustration than from anything Ophelia did.  He is frustrated with his mother, he is frustrated that Ophelia stopped seeing him with apparently little or no explanation, and he is frustrated with himself for not having done as his father's ghost asked him to do (killClaudius).  In scene 2 of Act 3, when the players are performing the play, Hamlet is once again cruel in his words to Ophelia.  Again, he is more frustrated than angry.  His words are for women in general so that many of his insults include his mother.  At a time when he could have really used a comforting, understanding woman in his life, he has none and that causes him to be bitter and angry.

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Broadly describe how one can explain Hamlet's bad treatment of Ophelia in Hamlet.

I think that it was all part of his scheme to look mad.  The play makes it clear that they were in love; then Hamlet begins treating Ophelia in ways that make no sense, ways that may suggest insanity to those around him.  The only problem I see with this interpretation is that it would have been simple for him to take Ophelia into his confidence so that he could achieve the effect that he wanted without causing her the pain that eventually led to her death.  We know that he never stopped loving her.  At her burial, Hamlet says:

lov'd Ophelia: forty thousand brothers
Could not, with all their quantity of love,
Make up my sum.

This might argue that his insanity was more than feigned, but his frequent returns to "sanity" lead me to believe that this is not the case.  There is plenty of evidence for both views, and if you look at the criticism, many arguments on way or the other.

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Broadly describe how one can explain Hamlet's bad treatment of Ophelia in Hamlet.

First of all, Opehlia herself describes how Hamlet had courted (dated) her, with all honorable intentions, and with every indication that he was completely in love with her.  So, here she is, thinking that Hamlet and her are an item, are on the path to marriage, and that he loves her.  Then, he starts acting strangely.  He ignores her, and pretty much drops the relationship.  The most he does is look at her longingly, and sigh.  So, that's frustrating.  She's ready to pass off as grief for his father's death, but then, the really cruel part comes in.  She gives him back all the love trinkets that he had given her, saying, since they were over, he might as well have them back.  At this point he shuns her, tells her to never marry, to go to a nunnery so that she cannot produce children, ever, tells her that he never loved her, and walks away.  Imagine the guy or girl that you were practically engaged to, basically spitting in your face, telling you it was all a lie, and that you are so undesirable that you should never get married or have kids.  Pretty harsh, if you ask me.  I hope that helps a bit; good luck!

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