Romantic love is a theme in Shakespeare’s Hamlet (1600), but while it is discussed amongst the characters, there is no real proof of any romantic love shared between Hamlet and Ophelia. Infatuation, lust, and affection, are all qualities found within romantic love, but on their own they are not interchangeable with it. Although Hamlet does appear to be infatuated by, lustful for, affectionate toward Ophelia, he does not ever show any sign of having been in love with her. Although “the precise nature of his original feeling toward Ophelia is a little obscure.” (Jones in Miola 265) the audience first hears mention of Ophelia and Hamlet’s romantic connection in act one scene three when Ophelia’s brother Laertes discusses with her the state of her relationship with Hamlet. Laertes attempts to warn her against involving herself with Hamlet, describing his affections as “Forward, not permanent, sweet, not lasting,/The perfume and suppliance of a minute -- / No more” (1.3.8-9). After this quote he goes on to say the reason for Hamlet’s inability to give her long lasting love is because his first concern is his family and becoming King. In Tolstoy’s criticism of Hamlet he says, that in order “to test whether [Hamlet] is feigning or is really mad, [Gertrude, Claudius and Polonius would] send to him a girl whom he loves.” (in Miola 253) if Hamlet had ever been in love with Ophelia this plan would have worked. He would have either broken his feigned madness to tell her he was pretending or he would have told her before this point that he was pretending so that if eventually he really was driven insane, she would have known and not have been distressed. Hamlet did neither, he witnesses the pain he is causing Ophelia and because his highest priority is avenging his father’s death he does nothing to let her know ahead of time of his state of being or to console her in the nunnery scene.
In the nunnery scene Hamlet say’s to Ophelia “I did/ love you once.” (3.1.115-116) only...
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