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Tyler Pontello

Miss Skirtch

English 10: World Literature

27 September 2018

Hamlet and Ophelia’s Troubled Love Affair

In every human relationship, there are obstacles, challenges, and things to work on. In the

case of the relationship between Prince Hamlet and Ophelia in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet,

there are a lot of issues. Hamlet and Ophelia’s troubled love affair is driven by spying, abnormal

family dynamics, and Hamlet’s mental instability.

Hamlet and Ophelia’s troubled love affair is driven by spying. In Act 3, Claudius and

Polonius plan to use Ophelia, the last person Hamlet truly trusts, to help determine the cause of

Hamlet’s madness, “Her father and myself will so bestow ourselves that, seeing unseen, we may

encounter frankly judge and gather by him, as he is behaved, If’t be th’ affliction of his love or

no that thus he suffers for.” (III.i.35-40) Spying in any relationship leads to distrust and anger.

When she tries to give him letters he supposedly wrote, Hamlet realizes something is wrong, as

he never wrote “remembrances” to Ophelia, “My lord, I have remembrances of yours that I have

long longed to deliver. I pray you now receive them…. No, not I. I never gave you aught,”

(III.i.102-105) He knows that he is absolutely being spied upon in the moment when he says,

“Where’s your father?” (III.i.141) Some debate that this is the point where Hamlet goes mad, as

he realizes the one person he thought was still trustworthy, helps Claudius and Polonius spy on

him. These acts of spying contribute to the troubled relationship.

Additionally, Hamlet and Ophelia’s troubled love affair is driven by abnormal family

dynamics. In Act 1, Polonius tells Ophelia that Hamlet does not truly love her and that she

should stay away from him, “Affection, puh! You speak like a green girl unsifted in such

perilous circumstance. Do you believe his “tenders” as you call them?” (I.iii.110-113) Polonius

goes on to tell Ophelia that she shall have no contact with Hamlet. “This is for all: I would not, in

plain terms, from this time forth, have you so slander any moment leisure as to give words or talk

with the Lord Hamlet.” (I.iii.140-143) Now Ophelia is split between following authority and

following her heart. This affects Hamlet too, because he gets the feeling that Ophelia is shutting

him out. In Act 1, Scene 3, Laertes talks with Ophelia about sexual topics, and tells her that she

is not worthy of Hamlet due to her inferior lineage, “Perhaps he loves you now, and now no soil

nor cautel doth besmirch the virtue of his will; but you must fear, his greatness weighed, his will

is not his own, for he himself is subject to his birth.” (I.iii.17-21) Here he goes on to mention to

Ophelia about the awkward topic of sex with Hamlet, “Or lose your heart or your chaste treasure

open to his unmastered importunity.” (I.iii.35-36) These examples of abnormal family dynamics

just serve to make the relationship more awkward and further split Hamlet and Ophelia.

Finally, Hamlet and Ophelia’s troubled love affair is driven by Hamlet’s mental

instability. In Act 3, Scene 1, after Hamlet figures out that Ophelia is using him, he goes off and

destroys what chance the relationship had, “Get thee to a nunnery, farewell” (III.i.149) Here he is

essentially calling Ophelia a prostitute. “God hath given you one face and you make yourselves

another.” (III.i.155-156) He insults women and drives Ophelia to think that Hamlet’s mental

instability is her fault. Even before the falling out, Hamlet holes himself up in his room,

forgetting Ophelia and being introverted. All these actions by Hamlet add up to ruin the

relationship completely.

In conclusion, Hamlet and Ophelia’s troubled love affair is driven by spying, abnormal

family dynamics, and Hamlet’s mental instability. These things, among others, serve to drive

Hamlet into madness and Ophelia into self-deprecating thoughts. Although Hamlet was written a

long time ago, Shakespeare’s masterful writing can be applied in the present day. He makes a

lesson out of Hamlet whose life lessons can be brought into any relationship.