Ophelia the drowned maiden by book cover illustrator Duncan Long.

"Ophelia" by book cover illustrator Duncan Long.

Shakespeare’s Ophelia is one of the tragic figures in Hamlet. She’s scorned and ridiculed by Hamlet:

Hamlet: …I did love you once.

Ophelia: Indeed, my, lord, you made me believe so.

Hamlet: You should not have believed me…I loved you not.

Ophelia: I was the more deceived.

Ophelia eventually crumbles under the unfolding tragedy around her, as well as Hamlet’s continuing mistreatment of her. Ultimately she suffers a mental breakdown and in the grip of sorrow, finally drowns herself.

While she is somewhat one-dimensional in Hamlet, the drowned innocent is a resonating, mythic picture that appears again and again in literature and film, with perhaps the most memorable being the drowning of the innocent child by the monster in the Boris Karloff version of Frankenstein.

Thus as an archetypical figure, Ophelia has proven to be an inspiration to artists, captivating the mind with the tragic implications that innocence can be terribly lost in an often unfair and evil world. Little wonder then that there are few illustrators who don’t have at least one painting of Ophelia in their repertoire.

This is mine.

When not contemplating the moral implications of Shakespearean characters, Duncan Long works as a magazine and book cover illustrator. You can see more of his illustrations at Duncan Long’s Magazine and Book Cover Portfolio