The Concept of Love In 'Hamlet' by William Shakespeare
In Hamlet, the concept of love is overshadowed by the acts of revenge and insanity, leading it to become only a subplot of the play. In La Celestina, love is the most powerful theme, along with revenge, and is the basis of the novel. Besides their themes aligning, specifically the common theme in literature of tragic love, they also show parallels in their characters. The selfishness of both Hamlet and Calisto were the ultimate reasons for Ophelia and Melibea’s untimely deaths.
It is debatable whether Hamlet truly ever loved Ophelia, or that she ever loved him in return. Hamlet sends a letter to Ophelia that Polonius reads aloud, claiming, “Doubt thou the stars are fire. Doubt that the sun doth move. Doubt truth to be a liar. But never doubt I love.” (Act II, Scene 2, line 115) Hamlet clearly states his love for Ophelia, although later in the play he makes it appear to everyone as though he has no care for her. However, Hamlet’s actions are due to him prioritizing avenging his father, King Hamlet’s, death. He goes insane in his quest for revenge, leading him to brutally mistreat Ophelia. Between Hamlet telling sexual jokes to her in front of her father, him claiming he never loved her, and him killing her father, it would seem obvious that Hamlet did not love Ophelia in any way and only desired to hurt her. But while his actions are harsh and inexcusable, they are not because of any hatred towards Ophelia, but instead come from a place of fear. Hamlet told Ophelia, “God has given you one face, and you make yourselves another.” (Act III, Scene 1, line 140) Hamlet generalizes with this claim, insinuating that all girls are deceiving and will inevitably be unfaithful to their spouses.
This shows how the actions of his mother has made him fearful of Ophelia because of the potential for betrayal. Through threatening Ophelia, the one Hamlet supposedly loves, it made Hamlet out to be far more crazy than it had previously been assumed. Hamlet is expressing anger towards Ophelia due to his mother’s previous actions. In his mind, he might imagine that someplace in the future, Ophelia could follow in Gertrude’s footsteps. It is obvious that Hamlet lost a lot of trust in his mother when she married his uncle so quickly, leading him to lose trust in women altogether. Hamlet was trying to protect himself from the suffering that women can bring.
Not only does he fear women, but his situation with his uncle prevents him from being able to be with her. He is attempting to warn Ophelia to stay away from all people, because it will only result with her in a terrible position. First, he uses the opportunity to get the rage he has towards his mother out of Ophelia. Eventually, he confronts his mother, but before that, he settles for screaming at Ophelia. And finally, this is another opportunity to convince all observers of his madness. The characters think he is in love with Ophelia, so when he starts screaming at her, it is believed that he has lost control. As Hamlet pretends to go insane, the line begins to blur as to whether it is truly an act or he actually has lost his mind.
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