Ophelia loves Hamlet, and Hamlet seems to feel the same, and tells her so in a letter. But his passion suddenly wanes, and the crestfallen Ophelia passes the letter to her father, Polonius. Polonius is in fact the culprit behind Hamlet’s reversal of feeling, having told his daughter, “Lord Hamlet is a prince out of thy star…” and orders her to ignore his attentions. The rejection drives Hamlet into melancholia, thus giving Polonius the evidence he needs to prove the Prince’s madness.
Besides the machinations of a dysfunctional court, we’re left with the letter Hamlet writes when things are still promising, and a girl, princess or otherwise, couldn’t receive a more lovely set of lines:
Doubt thou the stars are fire;
Doubt that the sun doth move;
Doubt truth to be a liar;
But never doubt I love.
It’s classic Shakespearean metaphor, with all the grandness of earth and heaven to bolster an all too-human frailty like love. The lines have a certain ring to them, and seeing The Princess Bride recently, I thought of Hamlet’s clear headed, and sublime lines. In William Goldman’s parable of star-crossed love, Westley, the low-born farm boy, wants to marry Buttercup, but must first leave in order to make his fortune in the world. On his leave-taking, Buttercup is distraught:
—I fear I will never see you again.
—Of course you will.
—But what if something happens to you?
—Hear this now: I will always come for you.
—But how can you be sure?
—This is True Love. You think this happens every day?
It’s the pared-down, vernacular version of Hamlet’s sentiment, and in its own way, nearly as lovely. And perhaps Shakespeare’s poem-within-a-love-letter-within-a-play, had a role in inspiring Goldman’s meta-fictional courtly tale of love.
Ah, indeed – Shakespeare at his finest.