Hamlet’s relationship with Ophelia can be categorized as abusive and utilitarian. Hamlet may had feelings for Ophelia but it was too late for him to realize that weeping on her death “I loved Ophelia forty thousand brothers could not with all their quantity of love make up my sum” but when she was alive, she was his doormat and even betrayed her feelings that contributed to her insanity and death (she drowned herself in a shallow creek). Hamlet was instead preoccupied with his hatred with Claudius to avenge the death of his father that he forget everything else that matters.
Hamlet did not gave much importance to Ophelia even if he had feelings for her. There are a lot of things that contributed to this. The most obvious is that Hamlet was an angry man and his character only revolved with the plotting and scheming and his never ending desire to want Claudius dead to avenge his father. Second, Hamlet was a prince and he might have thought that it was below his dignity as a royalty to get seriously involve with a woman like Ophelia. It could be also the reason that Ophelia, makes herself available to other men (like Hamlet’s father) sexually and just like most men, made Hamlet think less of Ophelia which explains his disrespect and abusive behavior towards her. And perhaps the most plausible reason why he hated her is because of her complicity with his mortal enemy Claudius.
These reasons of Hamlet’s treatment of Ophelia only manifests how difficult it is to determine the true feelings of Hamlet and its depth towards Ophelia because he was inconsistent in expressing his affection and disgust for Ophelia. There was a line where Hamlet uttered “I love you once”an utterance as if he broke up with Ophelia but lost the feelings because she did something that Hamlet did not like. We can only speculate that perhaps it is her promiscuity or her unwitting connivance with his mortal enemy Claudius that made Hamlet forget the feeling. But most likely, this could be the reason because Hamlet’s expression of affection for Ophelia during her death was profound – that she loved Ophelia that even forty thousand brothers could not match his love for her. But did not express it because of his hatred towards Claudius, pride of being a Prince, distrustful of Ophelia’s promiscuity (of which Hamlet cannot be faulted in this issue) or just utter insensitivity or incapable to reciprocate love just like many men. This is probable because one has to remember that Hamlet was a royalty where everything was spoonfed to him.
Nevertheless, there were too many passages in the story that manifests Hamlet’s love for Ophelia that even Ophelia’s dialogue confirms this. In one instance, Ophelia quipped to his father about Hamlet that “He hath… made many tenders of his affection to me.” And that “he hath importuned me with love in honorable fashion”. That line meant a tenacious courtship from a man which is customary during Shakespeare’s time and meant that Hamlet did love her. There was also a line from Hamlet that suggests feelings but he is holding it back such as in the dialogue “that if you be honest and fair, your honesty should admits no discourse to your beauty”/”the power of beauty will sooner transform honesty from what it is to a bawd”/”you should not have believed me, for virtue cannot so inoculate our old stock but we shall relish of it”.
Hamlet’s actions also tells of a young man who is bitterly in love. Even without the obvious dialogue, Hamlet deep feelings for Ophelia became obvious when he became angry when Ophelia rejected his advances in Act IIII, Scene I. There, Hamlet was writing love letters to Ophelia and when she returned them and rejected his advances, he was bitter, which is a common characteristic of men’s unrequited love royalty or not. There was also an instance where he was like to elevate Ophelia to a pedestal saying that she is innocent and virtuous but he stopped short elaborating and instead dismissed it by saying that she is still a woman whose love is brief like Hamlet’s mother. It is also less plausible that Hamlet had been playing Ophelia along by making her pawn when he knew that she unwittingly connived with Polonius and his enemy Claudius to eavesdrop for him. It is more of he got hurt when she connived with his enemy because that will prevent him from loving her even he really did love her.