A ‘real Ophelia’ for Shakespeare?June 8, 2011
An Oxford historian has found evidence of a story that could be the real-life inspiration for Shakespeare’s tragic character, Ophelia. Dr Steven Gunn has found a coroner’s report into the drowning of a Jane Shaxspere in 1569. The girl, possibly a young cousin of William Shakespeare, had been picking flowers when she fell into a millpond near Stratford upon Avon.
“It was quite a surprise to find Jane Shaxspere’s entry in the coroners’ reports – it might just be a coincidence, but the links to Ophelia are certainly tantalising,” he said.
The coroners’ report, originally written in Latin, describes the death of two-and-half-year-old Jane Shaxspere, who drowned picking marigolds in a stream beside a millpond.
The translation of the report records the cause, time and place. “By reason of collecting and holding out certain flowers called ‘yellow boddles’ growing on the bank of a certain small channel at Upton aforesaid called Upton millpond – the same Jane Shaxspere the said sixteenth day of June about the eighth hour after noon of the same day suddenly and by misfortune fell into the same small channel and was drowned in the aforesaid small channel; and then and there she instantly died.”
“And thus the aforesaid flowers were the cause of the death of the aforesaid Jane.”