The Theme Of Love In Hamlet


Pure love is worth holding onto if the love someone is fighting for is based on the relationship itself, not solely on the superficial aspects that someone finds attractive and good about the other person. As children grow up, their sense of love can become twisted to be focused on physical features and attractions, rather than a good foundation to love for the sake of loving each other is right. In William Shakespeare’s Hamlet: The Prince of Denmark, the titular character Hamlet’s primary struggle revolves around the love that he feels for each individual person, and how he might wish that he did not love them so. True love is not easy to develop and experience, especially when friends and family alike are betraying the love and trust you have already put into the relationship with others.

When in any relationship, friend or romantic, the notion of betrayal should not be in the mindset. One of Hamlet’s most fatal flaws is his inability to reconcile with his supposedly loved ones after an intense sense of betrayal is thrust into the relationship. When his mother Gertrude marries his uncle Claudius only a month after Hamlet’s biological father has died, Hamlet keeps this at the front of his mind and lets this action cloud his relationship, love, and possible reconciliation with his mother. Hamlet lacks the teachings that Elizabeth Barrett Browning reflects upon in her poem “If Thou Must Love Me”. As Hamlet reflects upon his relationship with his mom, he fails to see that “through love’s eternity” Gertrude’s betrayal of him and his father when she married Claudius does not matter (Browning 14). This is because anything can be forgiven through love even if the bond shared between the mother and son has shifted to a different form as Gertrude and Hamlet have grown into different people due to the actions they take after the wedding. It is plain that Hamlet still loves his mother as he intends to “speak daggers to her but use none” as he goes at her request to talk about his actions as of late (Shakespeare Act 3, Scene 3, Pg. 96). However, his love has changed into a new form of love for her as she has committed what Hamlet believes is a great act of aggression and betrayal against him. As Hamlet creates, destroys, and reconsiders his love for others throughout the play he comes to realize that he has become “too much changed” for him to be able to forgive and love his family and friends in the pure way Browning describes (Shakspeare Act 2, Scene 3, Pg. 58). The realization he approaches sends Hamlet down a spiral of anger and revenge all fueled by the love he hates he has and the love he wishes were still there. 

As Hamlet’s new mindset becomes set forward and focused his relationships and who he leans on for support shifts. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern hold the guise of being some of Hamlet’s closest friends when in all actuality they are working to gain the favor of the king, Claudius. But, Hamlet discovers that his true friend, who can place his complete love and trust in, is Horatio. For most likely the first time in his life, Hamlet discovers how much love truly means in situations of great need. He does not have to worry about his friends being “sponges” and sucking up all of the King’s love only to lightly glaze over the love he is pouring out every day (Shakespeare Act 3, Scene 7, Pg. 110). Hamlet’s acts of reaching for a friend’s love and learning who you can count on is deeply explored through the alternate lives of different characters in the novella Of Mice and Men written by John Steinback. As Hamlet goes through the constant woes of his father’s death, mother’s new marriage, and friend’s betrayal, he begins to find a sense of place where he “belonged” while joining up with Horatio to take down his uncle even though for most of the exposition he felt as though he had “no place” and not much “family” either (Steinback 15). Even as the play continues and Hamlet’s growth through his relationship with love itself matures and changes with him. He becomes gradually more content in his feelings for others and accepts that it is okay to “love...someone…once” but then grow away from that (Shakespeare Act 3, Scene 1, Pg. 81). Horatio continues to insert himself into Hamlet’s life, taking liberties to keep Hamlet going in his life even if it means going along with his plans of revenge. Just like Lennie and George, Horatio and Hamlet connect in a love that is meant to “look after” each other through a brothership they share (Steinback 14). This connection draws out until Hamlet’s final breath as he sends Horatio away from his body with love and respect.

As life continues and people grow their aspirations and dreams begin to shift too. In order to lead a truly beautiful life for oneself and those surrounding them, there has to be room to grow into the space surrounding the dreams and beliefs held. Ultimately we know that there is not always space for everyone previously involved in a life in the new mindset. However, the spaces left empty in someone’s life can be filled with a new love that is meant to help them to grow and expand into the person they are supposed to be so that they live their life to the fullest potential.

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