Ophelia

Yesterday we watched “Hamlet”, a performance at the Odeon amphitheater by English troupe London Globe. The performance brought to my mind one of the first paintings I ever loved, which was of Ophelia.

I may have been 6 or 7, and the painting was the star of a “Spot the differences” gimmick in Majalet Majed or something like that. I didn’t know what Hamlet was at that point of course, nor was I familiar with Millais. But even though I was so young, I fell in love with the beautiful layering of hair, tulle, and flowers floating on water. I couldn’t understand how the artist made them flow that way. So I cut that page and saved it.

It was years later that I became familiar with Shakespeare, Ophelia, and Millais.

It’s still one of my favorite paintings.

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 tunes,
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.

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