Among the many topics facing modern literary critics, one of the most highly-debated points centers on Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet; critics seek to prove whether or not the play’s protagonist Hamlet truly had honest feelings toward his lover Ophelia. Some believe that Hamlet never had feelings for her, but as I explain, we will see that there appears much more evidence supporting his genuine love for her rather than not loving Ophelia at all.Although Hamlet technically named all women “whores”, in modern interpretation, Hamlet descended into madness, and was blind due to outraging emotion caused by his mother’s unfaithfulness. Therefore, Hamlet initially had true feelings toward Ophelia, which is intensely portrayed in many instances, and these are three of which I find most evident.
First, Hamlet actually confesses his past love for Ophelia, until he finds out their conversation is being watched by Claudius and Polonius, which clearly to defend Ophelia, Hamlet would only say that to protect her. (III i)More than most other parts of the story, here is where his love for her is shown purely. “This was sometimes a paradox, but now the time gives it proof. I did love you once.” (III i 125) Here, Hamlet blatantly confesses that initially his feelings were confusing, but as time passed by it gave proof of his love for her. The word proof means there is enough evidence to establish that a thing or belief is true. Not only would that alone be enough, but he is speaking the words from his mouth, rather than hearsay. One would have to deliberately deny that truth in order to oppose the mere fact that Hamlet openly admitted his feelings for Ophelia.
Next, the letter Hamlet wrote to Ophelia clearly shows the audience his love forher simply by what the letter contains, which is where he expresses himself, “Doubt that the stars are fire, doubt that the sun doth move, doubt truth to be a liar, but never doubt I love.” (II ii 115-118)Because Ophelia showed her father the letter, Hamlet knew he needed to hide his love and act slightly crazy in order to protect her, but Hamlet appears almost desperate in trying to get his point across while writing this letter to Ophelia. He distinctly tells Ophelia to doubt absolutely anything, whether on Earth or beyond the galaxy, except his legitimate feelings for her. After hearing Hamlet say that, any person should know the amount of love he had for her was almost immeasurable. In this letter, he reinforces his undeniable feelings. Regardless of what she has heard or what she is influenced by, Hamlet hopes this letter reveals to Ophelia that he isn’t actually crazy, and his affection for her is sincere.
Lastly, the audience evidently sees Hamlet’s love for Ophelia when he finds out she is dead, and he sees her on her death bed, which triggers an argument between Hamlet and Laertes on who loved her the most.“I loved Ophelia. Forty thousand brothers could not with all their quantity of love make up my sum.”(V i 220-222) This clearly shows us the depth of Hamlet’s love for Ophelia. The fact that Hamlet tells this to Laertes, kin to Ophelia, speaks volumes. That is because the love between family members seems impenetrable, but Hamlet says otherwise. This scene finalizes the discrepancy between the argument of whether he loved her or not, which clearly he does.
“And, if thou prate of mountains, let them throw
Millions of acres on us, till our ground,
Singeing his pate against the burning zone,
Make Ossa like a wart! Nay, anthou’lt mouth,
I’ll rant as well as thou.” (V i 231-235)
Hamlet’s love is compared to a colossal mountain! Not only that, but it’s compared to a mountain that is so tall that it singes the sun. Hamlet’s love may have been questionable during some parts of the play, but throughout these instances, one can see that Hamlet had sincere feelings for Ophelia.
In conclusion, there is more evidence conveying his love for her, rather than the minimal amount of evidence showing he does not. From confessing his love to her while being watched by her father and Claudius, to confessing his love in a letter, to even arguing with her own blood who loved her more, the depth of his true feelings for her could not go unnoticed while reading or watching this play. His love was clearly recognizable, even BEFORE Ophelia dies. Once she does, he realizes what he had vanished. Then, he had nothing left but his leftover lingering feelings he had for her, which resulted in the genuine cry and fight for her at the graveyard, even against her own brother. That is love.