In the tragic play Hamlet, written by William Shakespeare, one of the most common themes found throughout the story’s plot is the theme of love. Shakespeare interlaces many layers of thematic love through the complex relationships of Hamlet; primarily between Hamlet and Ophelia. From Act one until the final scene of the play, Hamlet struggles with the decision to kill Claudius while he concurrently tries to comprehend the chaos surrounding him.
As the story unfolds and the tensions build between Hamlet and his loved ones, Hamlet’s relationship to Ophelia is profoundly impacted.
Ophelia is the daughter of Polonius, one of King Claudius\’ closest friends. She is described as a beautiful young woman, and she is also the love interest of the main character in the story Hamlet. Her love for Hamlet and her loyalty to her father creates friction and leads to tragedy in Ophelia\’s life.
Ophelia\’s love for Hamlet is mentioned very early in the play when she is with her brother, Laertes, and her father, Polonius. . The brother warns her to be careful since Hamlet\’s motive to be with her are not out of love, but is \”a violet in the youth of primy nature, forward, not permanent, sweet, not lasting, the perfume and suppliance of a minute,\”
Hamlet confesses that he loved her, but then goes on to say that he never loved
her. This could be due to the fact that Hamlet knew his conversation with Ophelia was being
watched which explains the confusion on whether he loved her or not. Additionally, in the love
letter he wrote for her, Hamlet wrote “never doubt I love” (Shakespeare II 127).
He tells her that
among everything else around, her that may not be true, his love for her is real. This is the one time before Ophelia’s death that Hamlet reveals his true feelings. This could be due to the fact that, once Ophelia received the letter, she gave it to her father. Hamlet did not trust Polonius, and from that moment on, Hamlet knew he had to hide his love for Ophelia and act mad to protect her.
According to his plan, Hamlet begins to act strangely. He rejects Ophelia, while Claudius and Polonius, the royal attendant, spy on him. They had hoped to find the reason for Hamlet\’s sudden change in behavior but could not. Claudius summons Guildenstern and Rosencrantz, old friends of Hamlet to find out what\’s got into him. Their arrival coincides with a group of travelling actors that Hamlet happens to know well. Hamlet writes a play which includes scenes that mimic the murder of Hamlet\’s father. During rehearsal, Hamlet and the actors plot to present Hamlet\’s play before the King and Queen.
Unlike Laertes, Polonius demands that she must stop dating Hamlet at once. He cares about his own reputation more than the emotions of his daughter, and he also wants to have the most power over her. If she and Hamlet were to wed, he would lose the power he has over her, which is unacceptable in his eyes. After Ophelia obeys her father, Hamlet appears at her room in a complete mess. The state that he is in frightens her, and mentions what happens to her father. Polonius assumes that Ophelia’s rejection has driven Hamlet insane. This is the beginning of Polonius obsession to discover if Hamlet is really insane due to his daughter’s rejection, or if it due to a different cause.
The obsession that Polonius continues to have for the discover of the source of Hamlet’s insanity drives him to his death, which further induces Ophelia’s drowning. Being extremely nosy, he once again hides to eavesdrop on Hamlet’s conversation, this time with Hamlet’s mother in the queen’s chamber. After Gertrude feels threatened by Hamlet’s aggression and screams, Polonius makes a sound behind the curtain, in turn shocking Hamlet. Then Hamlet yells, “How now, a rat? Dead for ducat, dead” and stabs Polonius through the curtains, killing him (3.4 29).
Polonius obsession with their relationship causes his own death. Unfortunately, his death drives Ophelia insane. She loses the love of her life, her brother is far away in Paris so she has no one to go to anymore, and now her father perishes. Being driven over the edge, she does not notice that falls into a large pool of water, and before long, \”her garments, heavy with their drink, pulled the poor wretch from her melodious lay to muddy death\” (4.7 206-208). The significance of Ophelia and Hamlet\’s relationship is all tied together by Laertes\’s mark for vengeance.
Act V i. is the first scene since Polonius\’s death that the two characters are in each other\’s presence. Overcome with grief, Hamlet cries, \” I loved Ophelia: forty thousand brothers could not, with all their quantity of love make up my sum\” (5.1.270-72). When he sees Laertes in the grave, he becomes jealous and angry, so they wrestle. Laertes was not prepared to kill Hamlet there and then, but it is hinted that he will do so in the next scene.
Hamlet\’s relationship may indirectly lead up to his death. Hamlet and Ophelia have a relationship that is quite significant to Hamlet as a whole. Their relationship in the past has been filled with many sexual endeavors but once the play starts, it begins its downfall, affecting multiple characters down the line.