For centuries, scholars have debated if Ophelia’s death by drowning is considered a suicide and thus damns her soul (despite the fact that she is buried on holy ground). Hamlet, the Ghost of Hamlet’s father, and Claudius all discuss the importance of confession before death, an act which gives the dying individual a clean conscience and a Heavenly reward. Ophelia’s fate, however, is shrouded in a mystery which places her soul in eternal peril. This is both sad and ironic, given that Ophelia is one of the most honest and obedient of all characters in Hamlet.

Denmark is stained

With bruises of betrayal.

Yet in her agony, she


succumbed to the darker abyss,

flowers tangled in her hair,

A song in her throat.

Pale, plundered.

As the bough broke,

hers was the greater tragedy.

Oh woe is me, she lamented

When lovers proved false

And parent cunning.

A neglected player

In a tale of revenge

And fawning fathers.

Abused, insulted,

Robbed of innocence.

The nunnery is a fine place

For one of such pure heart,

And unswerving conscience.

Perhaps she desired the

The wrong Prince?

Or a Father who would not

Parade her as a pawn?

Sought salvation not in the

Rivers of ravaged beauty, broken

But cloistered in the chapel

This isn’t a romance

Where the rapids baptized her.

Thirsty, they consumed all,

swallowing weary wounds:,

an abbreviated life.

If only she had recognized

Reality in the



Of Hamlet unbraced.

Or had she awakened from the slumber

of contrariness and corruption,

poison and pantomimes,

lords and liars,

And clung to a different Savior,

Maybe it would have been different.

“God ha’ mercy on . . . all Christians’ souls.”

Especially on those

Worthy of a happy ending —

on her sweet and gentle spirit.

Citation Information

Crystal Hurd, “Ophelia,” An Unexpected Journal: Shakespeare & Cultural Apologetics 5, no. 4. (Advent 2022), 107-108.