Hamlet is a play by William Shakespeare, which dramatizes Prince Hamlet’s revenge towards Claudius, his uncle who murdered his father who is Claudius brother. More so, he succeeded the throne and took the king’s wife as his own who is Prince Hamlet’s mother. The most vivid themes in this play are incest, moral corruption, revenge, jealousy and betrayal. Prince Hamlet is the main character in the play. The play also shows his mixed feelings towards Ophelia, which is seen as the play, begins and as it progresses.
Ophelia is a young noblewoman from Denmark, and the daughter of Polonius and Laertes’ sister. She is one of the play's female main characters, and we see her as a potential lover of Prince Hamlet. The degree of love that human beings have for each other can never be measured empirically or otherwise because these are matters of the heart, which we cannot be able to test. However, the actions we portray towards each other tell of the feelings we have. The question of whether Hamlet has feelings for Ophelia is no secret, as we shall see because of his behavior towards Ophelia. The confusion that exists is because of Prince Hamlet feigning to be mad.
Ophelia herself introduces Prince Hamlet’s love for her when she retorts, "He hath, my lord, of late made many tenders of his affection to me". Although at this point, Prince Hamlet keeps a distance, (he is not seen around with her), it is no secret that he has deep feelings.
In the beginning of the play, Ophelia and Hamlet seem to have feelings for each other but Ophelia seems to be distant. The reason for this distance is simply her father and her brother who are so protective of her. Her father goes to the extent of pressing her to suppress any feelings she has towards Prince Hamlet. Her brother claims Prince Hamlet’s love for her will undoubtedly not last. However, Ophelia strongly defends Prince Hamlet and this to us in an indication that Ophelia loves him back.
Another reason would be the actions of Hamlet when he came to see Ophelia. She says, “He took me by the wrist and held me hard. Then goes he to the length of his entire arm, and, with his other hand thus o'er his brow he falls to such perusal of my face as `I would draw it. Long stayed he so. Lastly, he raised a sigh so piteous and profound as it did seem to shatter all his bulk and end his being. That done, he lets me go, and with his head over his shoulder turned he seemed to find his way without his eyes, for out o' doors he went without their helps, and to the last bended their light on me (pg 75 line 90)”
When Ophelia for the first time learns that Prince Hamlet has feelings for her, she is frightened. She therefore rejects that she loves him. The description that she makes of how Prince Hamlet handles her reveals to some extent Hamlet may be having some degree of a mental problem. However, even so we can clearly see Hamlet’s strong feelings for Ophelia. We cannot conclude with certainty that these are actions of madness because to Hamlet it may be the expression of the love (which may not be how Ophelia defines love) he has towards Ophelia.
The most direct proof of Hamlet’s love towards Ophelia is one of the letters that Polonius brings to the king and queen. In this letter, Prince Hamlet is so sure that Ophelia is the only recipient of the letter and hence expresses her true and honest feeling. Prince Hamlet writes, "To the celestial and my soul's idol, the most beautified Ophelia ... Doubt thou the stars are fire, doubt that the sun doth move, doubt truth to be a liar, but never doubt I love". Later in the play, Prince Hamlet presumes that he is been watched by everybody and hence pretends that he does not love her. It is true that Claudius and Polonius are closely watching them and therefore, they may just be behaving as if they do not love each other yet in reality they do.
Prince Hamlet feelings strange and beyond human understand. In Act 3 Scene 1; Prince Hamlet seems to be confused and desperate to a point that he contemplates suicide. “To be or not to be that is the question whether it is nobler in mind undergo the sufferings, the arrows and the slings of extreme fortune or taking arms against a sea of difficulties and by rejecting, ending them. To die; to sleep…” Rosencrantz and Guildenstern report to the king that they do not have a substantial reason for Prince Hamlet’s crazy behavior. The king goes to the extent of relying on Ophelia to acquire information about his nephew.
His strange feelings would also have been caused by his mother’s betrayal to the extent that he can show Ophelia absolutely no affection. His suppressing feelings also appear to be a mystery to Ophelia yet King Claudius think Ophelia is the closest person who can understand him. His words are even bitter and rude even in the presence of Ophelia who he is madly in love with. The period of time that he does this is when he was angry with his uncle and this anger seems to be constantly increasing. We can therefore conclude that he truly loves Ophelia but his behavior and reactions are being complicated by his family’s background.
During the burial (Act 5 Scene 1), Prince Hamlet comes across a gravedigger who stimulates his sentiments towards death with a love song. This compels Prince Hamlet towards revenging against the death of his father. At this time, when he encounters the queen and Laertes (Ophelia’s brother), he realizes who is being buried. Grief overcomes him and he leaps into the grave with Laertes where both begin to mourn and the king’s attendants pull them out of the grave. At this point, Prince Hamlet exclaims, "I loved Ophelia: Forty thousand brothers could not, with all their quantity of love, make up my sum” He can hold it no more and opts to leave the funeral. He is bewildered by Laertes inhumane reaction of hostility towards him. This Act shows Prince Hamlet’s extreme expression of feelings of love towards Ophelia. He cannot hold it anymore but he appears to be a victim of circumstances.
In conclusion, Prince Hamlet appears to have been affected by the people around him to the extent of sacrificing his love for Ophelia. There is a lot of dramatizing in his reactions to conceal what he really feels. the death of the father, death of Polonius , death of Ophelia and incest in the family are some of the circumstances that have influenced his feelings. he therefore goes to being an extremist in making his expressions to Ophelia. This ends up complicating Ophelias opinion and feedback feelings towards him.