Ophelia, from Hamlet, is one of the most re-imagined Shakespearean women. Above you can watch Natalie Merchant's captivating video/song performance of Ophelia re-envisioned through Merchant's haunting lyrics, mesmerizing vocals and performances. Ophelia is many women. In Shakespeare's play, Ophelia goes mad and then falls into a stream and as her dress gets heavier and heavier with water, she resigns herself to drowning. She dies chanting old tunes; leading to her death, she had been singing Hey non nonny, nonny, hey nonny songs of madness as her mind breaks because of male power.
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. (4.7.2)
MariCruz Suarez Rolobos reimagines Millais' imaging of Shakespeare's Ophelia.In Rolobos' remake, the strand of violets around Ophelia's neck becomes a crown.
Because MariCruz's image is digital, it is unlikely that her model had to lie in cold water for hours and hours like Millais' model did. Perhaps, as a digital image, the model is not even in water! On the other hand, Lizzy Siddal, Millais' 19 year old model, caught a terrible cold and pneumonia from lying in the bath, warmed only by some candles on the floor around it (Millais painted the creek and foliage separately), from which she never recovered. She died years later of ill health, addiction, anorexia, stress from her tumultuous relationship with Dante Rossetti and, perhaps as some believe, suicide.
Elizabeth (Lizzy) Siddal, known as the muse of neo-Raphealite painters and the wife of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, was also herself a poet and artist.
Ophelia (Drowning). Helen Morton, in a Birmingham University performance piece at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2009. In this re-imagining of Ophelia, in a bridal gown, she falls into a hotel swimming pool. Andrew Allen writes:
Helen Morton’s gloriously cracked voice husks across the water as she brokenly negotiates her way through a collection of brutal love songs, her useless wedding veil trailing ahead of her in the water like a precursor of her own ghost, while other characters indulge in a lot of kissing, thrusting and sighing in this pool, all warm, wet and heated, and savagely ignoring her. We’re told that Serafina Kiszko’s character is new, created for this production, but she could just as easily be interpreted as a splinter of Ophelia’s paranoia, or a memory of herself in happier times.