, Research Paper
Hamlet is without any reservations, one of Shakespeare?s most mystifying plays. Although the play has a concise story, it is filled with many uncertainties relating to different issues behind the plot. The reader is left with many uncertainties about the true feelings of prince Hamlet. One question in particular is, did Hamlet really love Ophelia? This dispute can be reinforced either way, however I believe Hamlet was truly in love with Ophelia. Support for my decision comes from Hamlet?s treatment towards Ophelia is shown throughout the play, but especially in Act 3, Scene 2, and at Ophelia?s grave in Scene 1 of Act 5. This play is about the troubles encountered by young prince Hamlet as he tries to seek revenge for his father?s murder. Hamlet discovers the murder of his father, as well as the adultery and incest committed by his mother and uncle. This results with Hamlet retaining a very embittered and cynical outlook on life. ?Or 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.? (1.2.131-134). Throughout the play, Hamlet teaches the audience the depths of his depression through soliloquies. Hamlet not only regards the world with pessimism, but he also has suicidal feelings. Hamlet displays thoughts of self that questions the worth of living. The foremost cause for his exasperation and aggravation is the fact that his mother and his uncle, Claudius immediately got married right after his father?s death. His mother?s actions seem to be what repulses Hamlet most as he yells, ?frailty thy name is woman!? (1.2.146). Hamlet has developed a burning hate towards his mother and women in general. It is this fuming mind-set that is responsible for his terrible treatment towards dear, innocent Ophelia in Act 3. Once Hamlet discovers the cause of his father?s death, he disguises himself by acting nutty to mask his true objectives of revenge. By doing so Hamlet is now able to do whatever he wants to, without being questioned of his behavior. He does this on one occasion during a visit with Ophelia. Ophelia later relays 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.? (2.1.82-84). This scene is directly after Hamlet learns of his father?s murder. It seems that Hamlet is looking to Ophelia for help, his feelings were crushed and he needed consolation. I extract the estimation that prince Hamlet adores Ophelia, and that she is one the few loved ones he has left to turn to. I am sure he loves his family, but his father is dead, his mother is unconcerned with his father?s death and his uncle is the murderer of his father. The plot thickens and Hamlet?s mind begins to ponder the possibilities of a confession by the king. His love for Ophelia is also strongly noticed by all. The nobles of Elsinor also notice the love he shows and they begin to realize the possibility that Hamlet love for Ophelia would benefit them all. 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.? (2.2.121-122). Queen Gertrude wishes to use Ophelia’s love to bring her only son out of madness. Claudius wishes to do the same. His reason, however, is to end the threat of his own life. Once the king and queen realize this remedy they quickly act to use it by persuading Ophelia to talk to Hamlet. In this Scene true madness comes into play. Once Ophelia meets Hamlet and speaks with him Hamlet realizes that his mother and stepfather are aware of this love and might use this to end his threat. Hamlet must end their thoughts of using Ophelia to rid him of his condition. To do this he must destroy all the current feelings Ophelia has for him and he does so very well, perhaps too well. Now that Ophelia feelings for him have lessened, he must work quickly to obtain his uncle?s confession so that he might again have Ophelia’ love. Hamlet?s plan develops when actors arrive in Elsinor. He uses their skill by relieving the mystery of his father?s death in a production with hopes of getting his uncles confession. Hamlet confidently states, “The play?s the thing Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King.? (2.2.617).It is Act 3 Scene 1, here is where it is possible to really consider Hamlet?s love for Ophelia. Prior to visiting with her, Hamlet states in a soliloquy his famous ?to be or not to be? speech 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.? (3.1.88-89). Moreover, Hamlet recognizes the importance of his affections towards Ophelia, and in regards to Ophelia’s beauty, Hamlet states “That if you be honest and fair, your honesty should admit no discourse to your beauty.” (3.1.107-108). Clearly, Hamlet is saying that indeed, Ophelia can be honest and fair, however; it is virtually impossible to link these two traits, since ‘fairness’ is an outward trait, while ‘honesty’ is an inward trait. He further states, “Ay, truly, for the power of beauty will sooner transform honesty from what it is to a bawd that the force of honesty can translate beauty into his likeness.” (3.1.111-114). However Hamlet?s good disposition 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. Since I believe 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 her father is spying on them. It is Ophelia?s answer that angers him further, she lies that Polonius is at home. By being untruthful 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.? (3.1.121). 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, I have faith that there is no hesitation of Hamlet?s intense love for Ophelia. It is Ophelia?s funeral, and Hamlet confronts Laertes upon a test of their love for her. It was to this challenge that Hamlet declares, “I loved Ophelia. Forty thousand brothers could not with all their quantity of love make up my sum.? (5.1.271-273). It was especially difficult for Hamlet to talk to Ophelia. The only other woman in his life, Gertrude, has betrayed his father by marrying Claudius. This in fact, betrays Hamlet as well. Hamlet may be obsessed with the idea that all women are evil. Although there have been scenes in which there is the possibility of skepticism, my impression is that Hamlet did in fact, love Ophelia. His claims of affection, and his bitter reaction to her denial prove his feelings of love. Although Shakespeare may not have made it excessively clear, the popular belief supports Hamlet?s love for Ophelia. So indeed, Hamlet did love Ophelia, and evidence is also in the play that she did love the prince. When Laertes tells Ophelia to beware of Hamlet’s love, she does not deny her love for Hamlet but responds that yes she will be careful. As for the song, no part of any of Shakespeare’s plays is ever thrown in simply because it was popular at the time. When Ophelia sings that sing in her mentally disturbed state she is revealing the nature of her relationship to Hamlet and his promises of love. In the end, Ophelia had no plan, plot or motive that drove her crazy, the loss of her lover and her father was too much for her to bear. I think Shakespeare made it a point to be for inconsistent to add to the many mysteries of Hamlet?s character as well as allow readers to relate to Hamlet?s complex mind. That is what makes a play so interesting to a reader?s mind?when one can place themselves in the shoes of the main character. All Quotes taken from:Shakespeare. Hamlet. New York: First Signet Classic Printing, 1998.