Summary: the Concept of Love in La Celestina Novel and in the Hamlet Play

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In Hamlet, the concept of love is overshadowed by the acts of revenge and insanity, leading it to become only a subplot of the play. In La Celestina, love is the most powerful theme, along with revenge, and is the basis of the novel. Besides their themes aligning, specifically the common theme in literature of tragic love, they also show parallels in their characters. The selfishness of both Hamlet and Calisto as they are guided by the love’s disease was ultimately the reasons behind Ophelia and Melibea’s untimely deaths.

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It is debatable whether Hamlet truly ever loved Ophelia, or that she ever loved him in return. Hamlet sends a letter to Ophelia that Polonius reads aloud, claiming, “Doubt thou the stars are fire. Doubt that the sun doth move. Doubt truth to be a liar. But never doubt I love.” Hamlet clearly states his love for Ophelia, although later in the play he makes it appear to everyone as though he has no care for her. However, Hamlet’s actions are due to him prioritizing avenging his father, King Hamlet’s, death. He goes insane in his quest for revenge, leading him to brutally mistreat Ophelia. Between Hamlet telling sexual jokes to her in front of her father, him claiming he never loved her, and him killing her father, it would seem obvious that Hamlet did not love Ophelia in any way and only desired to hurt her. But while his actions are harsh and inexcusable, they are not because of any hatred towards Ophelia, but instead come from a place of fear. Hamlet told Ophelia, “God has given you one face, and you make yourselves another.” Hamlet generalizes with this claim, insinuating that all girls are deceiving and will inevitably be unfaithful to their spouses. This shows how the actions of his mother has made him fearful of Ophelia because of the potential for betrayal. Through threatening Ophelia, the one Hamlet supposedly loves, it made Hamlet out to be far more crazy than it had previously been assumed. Hamlet is expressing anger towards Ophelia due to his mother’s previous actions. In his mind, he might imagine that someplace in the future, Ophelia could follow in Gertrude’s footsteps. It is obvious that Hamlet lost a lot of trust in his mother when she married his uncle so quickly, leading him to lose trust in women altogether. Hamlet was trying to protect himself from the suffering that women can bring. Not only does he fear women, but his situation with his uncle prevents him from being able to be with her. He is attempting to warn Ophelia to stay away from all people, because it will only result with her in a terrible position. He uses the opportunity to get the rage he has towards his mother out of his system by projecting it onto Ophelia. This is also another opportunity to convince all observers of his madness. The characters think he is in love with Ophelia, so when he starts screaming at her, it is believed that he has lost all control of himself and the line begins to blur as to whether it is truly an act or he has actually lost his mind. Regardless of the reasoning behind his actions, Hamlet was selfish and treated Ophelia poorly.

Calisto, in La Celestina, did not have truly bad intentions in obtaining Melibea, and yet he used selfish means to get what he wanted. Melibea originally has no desire for Calisto, who falls in love at the mere sight of her beauty. When Calisto hears of a sorceress, Celestina, who has the abilities to cause Melibea to return Calisto’s love, he seeks out Celestina’s help, even when advised against doing so. Melibea’s initial rejection of Calisto is so painfully clear that it appears to be almost prideful. But after the support Celestina gives Calisto, the shift in Melibea is abrupt and shocking, as she moves from the dismissal of Calisto to the most utter submission to him. “I do not want a husband, I do not want a father or relatives! Without Calisto, I have no life, and because he takes pleasure of me, I am happy.” She is the one who constantly seeks out Calisto and plans their secret meetings. This leads her to end up falling into the madness of their romance, which ends in an unfortunate and untimely manner. Calisto is dedicated to Melibea, but it is not strictly love that motivates him, but more so the drive to get what he feels he deserves. Such attitude depicts him as a selfish person with the means of doing anything to accomplish what he longs without taking care of the repercussions. He shows himself to be an inexperienced and insecure human who is unable to cope with the disappointments of things not meeting his expectations. When they are not met, he breaks down because of the opposition against him, such as rejection by Melibea.

The malady of love is displayed as we see the men in Hamlet and La Celestina treat the women in a jarring way due to their selfish tendencies. Both Hamlet and Calisto lead their lovers to commit suicide by betraying and tricking them. In Hamlet, Ophelia believes that Hamlet finds her to be worthless as he gradually goes insane. She listens to him berate her and call her names in his attempt to sound crazy to his family. He later kills Ophelia’s father, the final act that sends her into the spiral that leads to her death. Her death is described by Queen Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother, in a very detailed way, as though she had viewed the incident herself. Because of suicide being viewed as highly sinful, it was told as though it had been an accident, with Queen Gertrude claiming, “Clamb’ring to hang, an envious sliver broke, when down her weedy trophies and herself fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide, and mermaid-like awhile they bore her up, which time she chanted snatches of old lauds, as one incapable of her own distress, or like a creature native and endued unto that element. But long it could not be till that her garments, heavy with their drink, pulled the poor wretch from her melodious lay to muddy death.” It was depicted as Ophelia having slipped from a snapped tree branch and drowned from her heavy clothes in the water, but Hamlet’s words and actions had caused her to snap as well. In La Celestina, Calisto’s use of deception by having Celestina perform witchcraft upon Melibea lead to her unfortunate demise. If it were not for Calisto being blinded by his desire for Melibea, her suicide would not have occurred. Upon finding Calisto dead, Melibea screams, “My remedy is dead!” Melibea views Calisto as a cure, simply due to the spell that had been cast upon her. Love itself was a disease that only her lover could treat, and when finding him dead, she felt dead. Her suicide was an act of grief from losing Calisto, something she never would have experienced had Calisto not chosen to be so selfish.

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