References to Ophelia

Ophelia was a favorite subject of artist John William Waterhouse.

Ophelia is often referred to in literature and the arts, often in connection to suicide, love, and/or mental instability.


In art

Arthur Hughes

John William Waterhouse

Other artists

In literature

Ophelia by John Everett Millais (1852) is part of the Tate Gallery collection. His painting influenced the image in both Laurence Olivier's and Kenneth Branagh's films of Hamlet.
Ophelia as appeared in The Works of Shakspere, with notes by Charles Knight, ca. 1873


  • Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky, in the first chapter of his 1880 masterpiece The Brothers Karamazov, described a capricious young woman who committed suicide by throwing herself off a steep cliff into a river, simply to imitate Shakespeare's Ophelia. Dostoevsky concludes that "Even then, if the cliff, chosen and cherished from long ago, had not been so picturesque, if it had been merely a flat, prosaic bank, the suicide might not have taken place at all." Dostoevksy also depicts the heroine Grushenka as Ophelia, binding the two through the words "Woe is me!" in the chapter entitled "The First Torment."
  • Ophelia's Revenge by Rebecca Reisert is a retelling of Hamlet from Ophelia's point of view.
  • Dating Hamlet, by Lisa Fiedler, tells Ophelia's side of the play's story.
  • In Agatha Christie's novel Nemesis the protagonist, Miss Marple, continuously compares one of the suspects in the murder to Ophelia.
  • Ophelia by Lisa Klein tells the story of Hamlet from Ophelia's point of view.rist


  • Mary Pipher alluded to Ophelia in the title of her nonfiction book Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls. The book puts forth the thesis that modern American teenage girls are victimized, lost, and unsure of themselves, like Ophelia.


  • Playwright Don Nigro explains Ophelia's madness in a first-person narrative by her in his 10 minute play Dead Men's Fingers.
  • In 2011 the Department of Theatre and Performance at the Victoria and Albert Museum invited director Katie Mitchell and Leo Warner of 59 Productions to conceive and produce a video installation exploring the nature of 'truth in performance'.[1] Taking as its inspiration 5 of the most influential European theatre directors of the last century, the project examines how each of the practitioners would direct the actress playing Ophelia in the famous 'mad' scenes in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. This multiscreen video installation, launched at the Chantiers Europe festival at the Theatre de la Ville in Paris on the 4th June, and opened at the V&A on the 12th July 2011.[2]

In film and television

  • In the opening montage of the 2011 film Melancholia, Kirsten Dunst's character is shown in her wedding dress, floating face up in a stream, reproducing the familiar image of the drowned Ophelia.
  • In the 2005 film The Libertine, Samantha Morton portrays aspirant actress Elizabeth Barry, who portrays Ophelia, and brings the house down.
  • In the second episode of the six part television series Desperate Romantics, Amy Manson poses as Ophelia. In the episode, she is acting as Elizabeth Sidal, who was a model for one of the brotherhood's founding members John Everett Millais.
  • In the 1986 film Fire with Fire, Virginia Madsen plays a Catholic School girl enthralled with John Everett Millais'depiction of Ophelia which she saw in school. She later recreated the scene for a photography project and took pictures of herself immersed in the pond.

In poetry

  • In T. S. Eliot's poem The Waste Land, several allusions are made to Ophelia's death: for example, one section is entitled "Death by Water".
  • Richard Brautigan's poem "The Rape of Ophelia" portrays Ophelia dying as a result of a rape, rather than by drowning.

In music

Classical works

  • Hector Berlioz made Ophelia the subject of his composition: Tristia, and entitled one movement "The Death of Ophelia."
  • Dmitri Shostakovich's Incidental Music to Hamlet features a movement entitled "Ophelia's Song", which depicts her descent into madness.
  • Nikolai Medtner's Tales for Piano also features a movement entitled "Ophelia's Song" which portrays her suffering and descent into madness.


  • In The Grateful Dead song "Althea" lyricist Robert Hunter references Hamlet in a near-quote from the famous To be or not to be soliloquy: "To be or not to be...To sleep, perchance to dream," The line in the song reads, "You may be the fate of Ophelia, sleeping and perchance to dream."
  • Emilie Autumn has a song and album called Opheliac in which the singer compares herself to Ophelia, which references the famous "Doubt thou the stars are fire..." lines from Hamlet.
The Play Scene in Hamlet by Edwin Austin Abbey.
  • The Menzingers recorded a song called "Even for an Eggshell" in which the chorus is an entire reference to Hamlet. The chorus goes, "Something's rotten in the state of Denmark. A broken home, who picks up the pieces? Either way, Ophelia will cry...".
  • Japanese solo artist Kaya recorded a single entitled "Ophelia".
  • Tori Amos recorded a song titled "Ophelia" for the album Abnormally Attracted to Sin.
  • British band Wild Beasts quote the name "Ophelia" in the chorus of the song "Bed of Nails", the second track of Smother.

Video clips

The First Madness of Ophelia by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

In computer games

  • In Brütal Legend Ophelia is a main character who drowns herself due to grief.
  • In Onimusha Dawn of Dreams, one of the main antagonists is named Ophelia, which is a Genma priestess that disguises herself as the concubine of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Yodo.

In science


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Look at other dictionaries:

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