He Loves Her? He Loves Her Not? Essay, Research Paper
The Elizabethan play Hamlet by William Shakespeare is without a doubt one of Shakespeare?s most puzzling plays. Although the play has a concise story, it is filled with many questions pertaining to different topics behind the story line. One question in particular is did Hamlet really love Ophelia? This argument can be supported in both directions, however I feel that Hamlet did love Ophelia. Support for this decision comes from Hamlet?s treatment towards Ophelia in Act 3, Scene 2, and at Ophelia?s grave in Act 5, Scene 1. The play Hamlet is about the trials, and tribulations met by Prince Hamlet, as he tries to seek revenge for his father?s murder. Since, Hamlet discovers the murder of his father, and the adultery and incest committed by his mother he retains a very bitter and pessimistic view of the world. ?That the Everlasting had not fixed His cannon ?gainst self-slaughter ? how weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable seem to me all the uses of this world.? (14 Act 1 Scene 2 Line 131). It is through his soliloquy?s that the audience learns the depths of Hamlet?s depression. Hamlet not only regards the world with pessimism, but he also has suicidal feelings. The main reason at this point for his anger and frustration, is his mother?s abrupt marriage to Claudius. The actions of his mother seem to be what disgusts him most as he yells, ?frailty thy name is woman!? (14 Act 1 Scene 2 Line 146). It is this attitude that Hamlet has developed towards his mother and women in general that plays a factor on his later treatment of Ophelia in Act 3. Once Hamlet discovers the cause of his father?s death, he assumes the disposition of a mad man to disguise his true intentions of revenge. By doing so Hamlet is now able to do, as he wants to, without being questioned of his behavior. It may be the reader?s opinion that he does this on one occasion during which he visits Ophelia. Ophelia later relates this meeting to her father, telling him that Hamlet was not properly dressed, ?and with a look so piteous in purport as if he had been loosed out of hell to speak of horrors-he comes before me.? (39 Act 2 Scene 1 Line 84). This scene comes soon after Hamlet learns of his father?s murder. To the reader it may seem that Hamlet is looking to Ophelia for help. The reader can draw the conclusion that he loves her, and that she is one the few loved ones he has left to turn to. The reader can also come to this same conclusion later in Act 2 when Polonius reads from one of Hamlet?s love letter?s to Ophelia, in which he says to her ?But that I love thee best, O most best, believe it.? (45 Act 2 Scene 2 Line 121).It is Act 3 Scene 1 where the reader might reconsider their opinion of Hamlet?s love for Ophelia. Before seeing her, Hamlet states the soliloquy in which he contemplates suicide. By this point his purpose for revenge has made him all the more miserable, and cynical. As Ophelia enters Hamlet?s spirits seemed to be aroused as he addresses her, ?The fair Ophelia. Nymph in thy orisons be all my sins remembered.? (65 Act 3 Scene 1 Line 90). However Hamlet?s good mood does not seem to last long. It is when Ophelia returns to him tokens of his affection that his attitude changes toward Ophelia. Hamlet starts to insult Ophelia, and taunt her. He tells her that he had once loved her, but then changes his statement to say that he had never loved her. To any reader who believes Hamlet truly did love Ophelia, these statements seem to be denial of the pain that Ophelia has caused him. However what the reader must remember is that he knows Ophelia does not mean what she says. This is discovered when out of the blue he asks where her father is. Hamlet knows that he is spying on them. It is Ophelia?s answer that angers him further, she lies that Polonius is at home. By lying to Hamlet, and doing the bidding of Polonius, and Claudius Ophelia has re-established Hamlet?s negative feelings towards women. Hamlet remembers his own mother?s fickleness, her dishonesty, and her frailty. Now seeing Ophelia do the same he can take no more and demands that she ?Get thee to a nunnery.? (66 Act 3 Scene 1 Line 122). It may be the reader?s opinion that Hamlet said this because he holds Ophelia in high regard, aside from the world he regards so cynically, he does not wish for her to become involved with it?s corruptness, therefore he feels she would remain fair in a nunnery. It is in Act 5, in which the reader has no doubt of Hamlet?s love for Ophelia. It is Ophelia?s funeral, and Hamlet confronts Laertes upon a test of their love for her. It is to this challenge that Hamlet declares, “I loved Ophelia. Forty thousand brothers could not with all their quantity of love make up my sum.? (131 Act 5 Scene 1 Line 272). Although there have been scenes in which the reader has great doubt, he/she comes to feel that Hamlet loved Ophelia. His claims of love, and his bitter reaction to her rejection prove his love. Although Shakespeare may not have made it clear, the popular belief supports Hamlet?s love for Ophelia. Shakespeare?s reason for inconsistency adds to the many mysteries of Hamlet.