Inspired from Millais’s image of the tragic death of Ophelia, as she falls into the stream and drowns (1851). Millais’s model was a young woman aged nineteen called Elizabeth Siddall.
Ophelia is a character in Hamlet, by William Shakespeare. She is driven mad when her father, Polonius, is murdered by her lover, Hamlet. She dies while still very young, suffering from grief and madness. The events shown in Millais’s Ophelia are not actually seen on stage. Instead they are referred to in a conversation between Queen Gertrude and Ophelia’s brother Laertes. Gertrude describes how Ophelia fell into the river while picking flowers and slowly drowned, singing all the while.