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Working on my poem about stones and choices, my mind went tripping down the road of Ophelia and her drowning. I had to pull out the dumbbell-size Riverside compilation and re-read that part of Hamlet. In school I took a seminar that read the folios, but that’s been more than (cough!) twenty five years ago. Re-reading the Shakespeare made me think I might write this poem in iambic pentameter, but I got past that foolish thought quickly.

Millais' well-known Ophelia

Millais' well-known Ophelia

When the queen tells Laertes about Ophelia’s death she blames it on a combination of Ophelia’s girlish foolishness picking flowers and climbing trees when a malicious tree branch wouldn’t hold her, so she fell into the river. This was certainly a way to ensure she was buried in hallowed ground, as suicide was a sin. In the next scene, the clowns as gravediggers talk about how the rich get away with shading and spinning the truth, and the poor can’t. Of course, what’s not talked about and scholars have targeted, is whether it was murder and was Ophelia pregnant. Shakespeare gives hints with Hamlet’s treatment of Ophelia, the queen’s elaborate story, etc.

What’s missing, too, is a scene with the servant(s) who found her, pulled her body out of the river, and carried her back to the castle. I plan to build the poem on these characters and the off-stage action in the great tradition of Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead. I should be so skilled!