References to Ophelia

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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[edit]

Arthur Hughes[edit]

John William Waterhouse[edit]

Other artists[edit]

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.
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 titled "The First Torment".
  • Ophelia's Revenge (2003) by Rebecca Reisert is a retelling of Hamlet from Ophelia's point of view.
  • Dating Hamlet (2002), by Lisa Fiedler, tells Ophelia's side of the play's story.
  • In Agatha Christie's novel Nemesis (1971) the protagonist, Miss Marple, continuously compares one of the suspects in the murder to Ophelia.
  • Ophelia is mentioned several times in the novel God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater (1965), by Kurt Vonnegut.
  • In Jasper Fforde's novel Something Rotten (2004) Ophelia tries to take over the play during Hamlet's excursion to the real world.
  • Ophelia by Lisa Klein tells the story of Hamlet from Ophelia's point of view.
  • In Agatha Christie's novel Third Girl (1966) one character describes another character as an "unattractive Ophelia".
  • In Joanna Briscoe's novel You (2011), Ruth, one of the protagonist's youngest daughter (8), tries to be Ophelia by recreating her floating in the river while under the influence of psychedelic drugs.
  • In Oscar Wilde's novel The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890), Lord Henry Wotton tells Dorian that "Hetty [may be] floating at the present moment in some star-lit mill pond, with lovely waterlillies round her, like Ophelia ...", a reference to Ophelia's death.
  • In John Lescroart’s 2013 novel The Ophelia Cut character Moses McGuire’s daughter, Brittany, in response to her father’s concern that she has not built a lasting relationship with a man, says "I’m not some fragile Ophelia".


  • 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 4 June, and opened at the V&A on 12 July 2011.[2]

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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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 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 the pond.
  • In the 2006/2007 anime series Ergo Proxy's fourteenth episode "Someone Like You/Ophelia", the character Re-l Mayer is in the same position as Ophelia in a deserted dome city of the same name.
  • In the 2011 film Larry Crowne, Julia Roberts' character Mercedes Tainot walks home from a canceled class saying to her husband "Ophelia out of the pond" sarcastically referencing how disappointing her life turned out to be.
  • In the 2011 anime No. 6, one of the main characters, Nezumi, disguises himself as a woman and plays the role of Ophelia in a local theater.
  • 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", and the painting by Millais appears at some point in the movie.
  • In the 2006 film Pan's Labyrinth, Ofelia is the main character of the film who has a significant link with flowers at the end of the film and has an obsession with fantasy.
  • In the 2013 anime Blast of Tempest, the character Fuwa Aika is largely based on Ophelia.

In poetry[edit]

In music[edit]


Artist, producer, and singer-songwriter Debra Gail White performs by the stage name of Ophelia.

Classical works[edit]

  • Hector Berlioz made Ophelia the subject of his composition: Tristia, and titled one movement "The Death of Ophelia".
  • Frank Bridge wrote a symphonic poem for orchestra titled There is a willow grows aslant a brook, taken from the first line of Gertrude's monologue recounting Ophelia's death.
  • Dmitri Shostakovich's Incidental Music to Hamlet features a movement titled "Ophelia's Song", which depicts her descent into madness.
  • Nikolai Medtner's Tales for Piano also features a movement titled "Ophelia's Song" that portrays her suffering and descent into madness.


  • Ophelia is the original music and brainchild of experimental folk, indie folk artist Roger Lanfranchi. He's been recording and performing under the Ophelia moniker since 2002.[3]
  • 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."
  • Natalie Merchant recorded a song and an album called Ophelia.
  • Emilie Autumn has a song and album titled Opheliac in which the singer compares herself to Ophelia, which references the famous "Doubt thou the stars are fire..." lines from Hamlet.
  • 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".
  • Indigo Girls recorded an album called Swamp Ophelia.
    The Play Scene in Hamlet (1897) by Edwin Austin Abbey.
  • American metal band Nevermore released an album called Dreaming Neon Black in 1999. The title track of that album tells the story of an old girlfriend of singer Warrel Dane. In an interview he explained that she left him to join a religious cult and never heard of her again. Later the singer started having nightmares about her crying out to him as she was drowning. The cover of the album shows a woman floating in shallow water.
  • British pop singer Toyah Willcox released an album and song titled Ophelia's Shadow.
  • 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...".
  • Melora Creager of Rasputina recorded a song titled "Dig Ophelia" for the album Thanks for the Ether.
  • Japanese solo artist Kaya recorded a single titled "Ophelia".
  • Tori Amos recorded a song titled "Ophelia" for the album Abnormally Attracted to Sin.
  • Madeleine Peyroux released a song titled "Ophelia" for the album Standing on the Rooftop.
  • British band Wild Beasts quote the name "Ophelia" in the chorus of the song "Bed of Nails", the second track of Smother.
  • British singer-songwriter Peter Hammill recorded a song titled "Ophelia" for the album Sitting Targets.
  • Italian singer-songwriter Francesco Guccini recorded a song titled "Ophelia" for the album Due anni dopo.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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".[4]
  • 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]


  1. ^ "Five Truths - 59 Productions".
  2. ^ "Five Truths - Victoria and Albert Museum". Archived from the original on 1 August 2011.
  3. ^ "Ophelia". Ophelia.
  4. ^ "Tom Waits".