The Destruction of Love Between Hamlet and Ophelia
Ophelia describes Hamlet as 'the courtier's soldier, scholar's eye, tongue and sword, Th'expectancy and rose of fair state, the glass of fashion and the mould of form, Th'observed of all observers (Act 3 Scene 1) He is the ideal man. But, after his madness and the death of her father she sees him as 'a noble mind o'er thrown!' (Act 3 Scene 1). Ophelia suffers from Hamlet's disillusionment; his attitude to her in Act 3 Scene 1 is hard to explain. His faith in women was shattered by his mother's marriage and it is also possible that Hamlet knows that Ophelia has been ordered to seek him out- yet how strong could their love have been as there is little excuse for the cruelty and the coarseness of his remarks: 'Get thee to a nunnery- why wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners?
'If thou dost marry, I'll give thee this plague for thy dowry: be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as snow, thou shalt not escape calumny. (Act 3 Scene 1). The main question of the play is does the barrier built by Ophelia to keep away Hamlet have any part to play in his 'madness', for, if it does, it is also the greatest tragedy of the play. How can something so small in the grandeur of the play be the heart of the tragedy one might ask? All other incidents in the play are reduced to a lower level because any character involved in the incident has brought, in some way, about their own downfall. For example Polonius's death is a tragic accident brought about by his conniving and slippery ways -and he is almost deserving of his death- whereas Ophelia and Hamlet's love is merely innocence entangled in the betrayal, deceit and incest in the castle itself.
On the other hand if the barrier between Ophelia and Hamlet's love, erected by Polonius, played no part in the madness of Hamlet then it is hard to say that the destruction of the love between them was the greatest tragedy- for there was little love to destroy in the first place. This point is further backed by the fact that although Claudius and Gertrude would like to believe that it is Hamlet's unrequited love for Ophelia that has driven him 'mad', Hamlet's behaviour with Ophelia convinces them that Ophelia is not the main cause of his illness. As Claudius said 'Love? His affections do not that way tend; Nor what he spake, though it lacked form a little, was not like madness.' (Act 3 Scene 1).
Hamlet's attitude, after seeing the ghost of his father, to Ophelia suggests that he is not fully in control of his actions- even if he knows Polonius and Claudius are listening, and that Ophelia, like his mother, is faithless; it is still hard to explain that, if he loves Ophelia, why he is so cruel to her. Ophelia's response to his harsh words are immediate, that he is mad- suggesting that their love does run deep, for she cannot bear to conceive that his words are from sanity and that he could be so...