"Doubt thou the stars are five;
Doubt that the sun doth move;
Doubt truth to be a liar;
But never doubt I Love."
The attitude of Hamlet towards Ophelia is one of the greatest puzzles in the play. The exact nature of his feelings for Ophelia is left ambiguous. As most critics have agreed, Hamlet did once love Ophelia deeply and sincerely but he ceased to do so. Why? How can we explain Hamlet's conduct towards Ophelia throughout the play, his ruthlessness and savagery towards a gentle and inoffensive girl whom he had once loved so ardently?
II LOVE IN HONOURABLE FASHION
Ophelia herself gives testimony of Hamlet's genuine love towards her:
"My Lord, he hath importun'd me
In honourable fashion."
He has approached her many times, with tenderness and holy vows of heaven as a testimony of his affection and honourable intentions. Her father, Polonius, advises her not to trust his vows, for they are brokers (Hamlet, I, iii, v.
127) - Lord Hamlet is out of her sphere; Polonius orders her to see no more of him. Her brother, Laertes is warning her that Hamlet's love is but
"... a fashion and a toy in blood
A violet in the youth of primy nature,
Forward, not permanent, sweet, not lasting,
The perfume and suppliance of a minute;
But a real "material" proof is put before us - a love-letter that Hamlet wrote to Ophelia. The letter is written in the conventional lover's stile and it is a real outbreak of passion. There is no doubt he loves her:
"O dear Ophelia, I am ill at these numbers,
I have not art to reckon my groans: but that I
Love thee best, O most best, believe it. Adieu.
Thine evermore most dear...