John Everett Millais: Ophelia (1851-1852)

(Tate Britain, London, UK)

Another well known painting. The subject is a scene (Act IV, Scene VII) from 'Hamlet' by William Shakespeare. The woman in this painting is Ophelia. She is the daughter of Polonius (Chief counselor to the king Claudius of Denmark) and in love with Hamlet, prince of Denmark. During the play Hamlet kills Polonius during a private meeting between Hamlet and his mother, Queen Gertrude. Devestated by the loss of her father she loses her mind. A short while later Ophelia apparently drowned as told by Queen Gertrude:

There is a willow grows aslant a brook, 
That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream; 
Therewith fantastic garlands did she make 
Of crow-flowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples 
That liberal shepherds give a grosser name, 
But our cold maids do dead men's fingers call them: 
There, on the pendent boughs her coronet weeds 
Clambering 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 indued 
Unto that element: but long it could not be 
Till that her garments, heavy with their drink, 
Pull'd the poor wretch from her melodious lay 
To muddy death

The painting shows Ophelia floating in the river, singing songs as if unaware of her danger. The painting is especially famous of the accurate depiction of the flowers and plants. Painting from 1851-1852.

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