Francis Danby. Disappointed Love, 1821.

Disappointed Love by Francis Danby (1793-1861) has nothing at all to do with Hamlet or Ophelia. The scene has in it a young woman who has torn a letter--presumably a love letter--and thrown it into the stream. What interests me is that we are so thoroughly conditioned by the image of Ophelia that we begin to make associations that may or may not be warranted. Raymond Lister, writing in 1989, looks at the picture and comments that Disappointed Love is an "Ophelia-like subject"; having made that observation, he lets his fancy take flight:

a jilted young girl sits weeping beside a woodland pool, her face buried in her hands, her hair hanging carelessly over her knees. She had torn a letter to pieces, and the fragments float on the surface of the water. Other letters, not yet destroyed, lie beside her on a wallet with an open locket containing a miniature of her beloved. Soon perhaps she will cast herself too into the still waters and, like Ophelia, sing as she drowns.

The gloomy woodland and the bank in the foreground, with here and there white funereal flowers lighting up the greens and browns, seem to encase the frail, white figure, reflected by the water as if it were welcoming her to the release of death. Her scarlet shawl, the colour of blood, adds a portentous note to the tristesse of the scene" (plate 48).