References to Ophelia

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Ophelia was a favorite subject of artist John William Waterhouse.[citation needed]

Ophelia, a character in William Shakespeare's drama Hamlet, is often referred to in literature and the arts,[1] often in connection to suicide, love, and/or mental instability.

In literature[edit]

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.[citation needed]
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 novel 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 titled "The First Torment".[2]
  • Ophelia's Revenge (2003), a young adult novel by Rebecca Reisert, is a retelling of Hamlet from Ophelia's point of view.[3]
  • Dating Hamlet (2002), by Lisa Fiedler, tells a version of Ophelia's story.[4]
  • Agatha Christie's characters refers to Ophelia in the novels After the Funeral (1953), Third Girl (1966) and Nemesis (1971)[5][6]
  • In Jasper Fforde's novel Something Rotten (2004) Ophelia tries to take over the play during Hamlet's excursion to the real world.[7]
  • Ophelia by Lisa Klein tells the story of Hamlet from Ophelia's point of view.[8]


  • 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.[9][10]


  • 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'.[11] 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 the play. This multiscreen video installation, launched at the Chantiers Europe festival at the Theatre de la Ville in Paris on 4 June, and opened at the museum on 12 July 2011.[12][13]

In film and television[edit]

  • In the Simpsons episode "Tales from the Public Domain", the story of Hamlet is retold using Simpsons characters. The role of Ophelia is taken by Lisa who, upon seeing Hamlet (Bart) talking to a picture of his deceased father (Homer), claims "Nobody out-crazies Ophelia!" She then backs up her claim by jumping on a table, stepping in people's food and kicking over flowers before finally cartwheeling out a nearby window and into the moat, presumably to her death.[14]
  • 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, similar to John Everett Millais' painting of Ophelia.[15][16]
  • In the 2005 film The Libertine, Samantha Morton portrays aspirant actress Elizabeth Barry, who portrays Ophelia, and brings the house down.[17]
  • In The Addams Family, Morticia's sister is named Ophelia: both sisters are played by Carolyn Jones. Ophelia is depicted with flowers in her hair, and often carrying flowers, alluding to the play.[18]
  • In the second episode of the television series Desperate Romantics, Elizabeth Siddal poses for John Everett Millais' Ophelia painting.[19]
  • In the 1986 film Fire with Fire, Virginia Madsen plays a Catholic schoolgirl 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 a pond.[20]
  • In the 2012 film Savages it is mentioned that the character "O" goes by "O" because she is named after Ophelia, "the bipolar chick who killed herself in Hamlet."[21]
  • In the 2006 film Pan's Labyrinth, Ofelia, the main character, alludes to the play.[22]
  • The 2013 anime Blast of Tempest has many Shakespearean elements, including references to Ophelia.[23]
  • In Queen and Country (2014) the protagonist nick-names his mentally unstable girl-friend Ophelia.[24]
  • In the 2019 Jordan Peele film Us, Ophelia is the name of a speech-recognition virtual assistant. This may be a reference to the play.[25]

In poetry[edit]

In music[edit]

Classical works[edit]


  • In The Grateful Dead song "Althea" lyricist Robert Hunter references Hamlet in a near-quote from the famous soliloquy: "To be or not to be...To sleep, perchance to dream," The line in the song reads, "Yours may be the fate of Ophelia, sleeping and perchance to dream."[31][32]
  • Natalie Merchant recorded a song and an album called Ophelia, inspired by the play.[33]
  • Emilie Autumn has a song and album titled Opheliac in which the singer compares herself to Ophelia, connecting to her own experiences with bipolar disorder.[34]
  • Jewel has a song titled "Innocence Maintained" from her album Spirit (1998) with the lyrics "Ophelia drowned in the water, crushed by her own weight".[35]
  • Indigo Girls recorded an album called Swamp Ophelia, placing Ophelia in the Deep South.[36]
    The Play Scene in Hamlet (1897) by Edwin Austin Abbey.
  • British pop singer Toyah Willcox released an album and song titled Ophelia's Shadow, focussing on Ophelia's isolation.[37]
  • Melora Creager of Rasputina recorded a song titled "Dig Ophelia" for the album Thanks for the Ether. The song "speaks for and with her".[38]
  • Tori Amos recorded a song titled "Ophelia" for the album Abnormally Attracted to Sin, perhaps inspired by Shakespeare's Ophelia.[39]
  • British band Wild Beasts' song "Bed of Nails", the second track of Smother, combine Ophelia and Hamlet with the work of Mary Shelley.[40]
  • Italian singer-songwriter Francesco Guccini recorded a song titled "Ophelia" for the album Due anni dopo.[41]
  • American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan includes Ophelia as one of the characters residing on Desolation Row in the song of the same title from the album Highway 61, recorded in 1965.[42]
  • The steampunk band Abney Park recorded a song called "Dear Ophelia" that is sung from the point of Hamlet, writing letters to Ophelia expressing that he does, in fact, love her.[43]
  • Singer-songwriter Justin Vernon recorded a song titled "Hanna, My Ophelia" for his album Hazeltons.
  • The Band recorded a song titled "Ophelia" for the album Northern Lights – Southern Cross that was a minor hit in the U.S., peaking at #62 on the Billboard Hot 100.
  • Leaves' Eyes on their album Symphonies of the Night had a track labeled "Ophelia".
  • French singer-songwriter Nolwenn Leroy recorded a song titled "Ophélia" for her 2012 album Ô Filles de l'eau.
  • American singer-songwriter Zella Day recorded a song titled "Sweet Ophelia" for her 2014 album Zella Day – EP.
  • British avant-garde black/gothic metal band Ebonylake has a song entitled "The Wanderings of Ophelia Through the Untamed Countryside", present in their 1999 debut On the Eve of the Grimly Inventive.
  • The single titled "Ophelia" was released by The Lumineers on February 4, 2016 ahead of the release of their second album Cleopatra which was released on April 8, 2016.
  • The song "Who Are You" from artist Tom Waits on his album "Bone Machine" contains the lyric "Now Ophelia wants to know, Where she should turn".[44]
  • Belarusian metal band Nebulae Come Sweet released an EP titled Ophelia in 2016. The title song of the same name was inspired by tragic events in the frontman's life.

Video clips[edit]

The First Madness of Ophelia (1864), by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

In video games[edit]

  • 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 The Sims 2, there is a sim called Ophelia Nigmos who lives with her aunt in a neighborhood called Strangetown. Both her parents died by drowning.
  • In Puella Magi Madoka Magica Portable, the character Kyouko Sakura has a witch form known as Ophelia. Kyoko's arc as a character in the franchise is strongly affected by insanity, the deaths of her father and a person she feels strongly for, and her own suicide in certain timelines.
  • In Mermaid Swamp, there are multiple paintings of Ophelia's death throughout the mansion, and one painting in the old mansion. Also, depending on the actions the player makes in the game, Seitaro, and possibly Rin, drown themselves in the swamp.
  • In Don't Starve, a character named Wendy calls for Ophelia when examining a pond. ("Ophelia? Are you down there?" —Wendy)
  • In Deus Ex: Invisible War, the orbital science platform operated by the Illuminati to monitor global communications is named Ophelia.
  • In Axiom Verge, one of the Rusalka (large war machines) is named Ophelia.

In science[edit]

In art[edit]

Arthur Hughes[edit]

John William Waterhouse[edit]

Other artists[edit]


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