Wednesday, June 08, 2011

The Real Ophelia?

Big news today about the finding in a 1569 coroner's report about Jane Shaxpere who died when she was picking flowers near the water, fell in and drowned.

Sound familiar? The scholars who spotted it are quick to ponder whether this is the story that was in Shakespeare's head when he created Ophelia. Sure, he would have only been 5 at the time - and he wrote Hamlet nearly 40 years later, but it's certainly reasonable to think that he would have known the story and it could have served as inspiration. The fact that her name is almost identical to his suggests that she could have even been a relation. If not, the common name would have helped to keep the story in his memory.

What I'm finding a bit of a deja vu is .... didn't we know this? The details may be new but I could swear that we knew about some real factual evidence for the goings-on in Hamlet. Am I thinking of a different story? Does anybody know what I'm thinking about? I know that somewhere in my reading (and I think it was in a regular book, not on the net, which is why I'm having trouble googling it) I read about the death of someone that would have been local to Shakespeare, that may have served as a model for someone in one of his plays. Maybe I'm just backfilling the story to be about Ophelia, but it's going to bug me until I know for sure what story I'm thinking of.

UPDATED On a clue from Sean, the other source is Katherine Hamlet (or possibly Hamnet, but still...)  What's really weird is that Sylvia over at TheShakespeareBlog wrote this up two weeks ago, and apparently had not yet seen the new 1569 finding?!  Check it:

Shaxpere?  Hamlet?  Is somebody pulling our leg, here? Seriously. 


Anonymous said...

So, does this satisfy Oxfordians, or what? Or just make them more pissed off?

Sean O'Sullivan said...

Hi Duane,

I'm on a lousy work computer which has all kinds of issues with web access, so you'll have to do a
little search yourself. The real
Ophelia story appears in today's
edition of Metro (a free paper) here in London.
The other inspiration for Ophelia is mentioned, her name
was, I think, Katherine Hamnet,
and it bears closer relation to
"Hamlet" in that she was thought by locals to have committed suicide
after a failed love affair.If memory serves, this happened much
closer to Stratford when Will was
around in his teens.Try to log onto the newspaper site for the full article.

Sean O'Sullivan said...

Hi Duane,

Glad you could sift the useful
info from the false in my last
The Real Ophelia article was
not in the Metro paper, but in
the new tabloid-sized condensed
version of The Independent, "i":

Keep up the fine geekery.