"E. T." Ophelia.

By permission of the Folger Shakespeare Library

This late nineteenth-century painting owned by The Folger Shakespeare Library is by an artist known only as "E. T." At the bottom of the picture we barely see the stream Ophelia is about to step into; the most striking aspect of the picture is Ophelia's intense stare that seems to look across the stream at a viewer standing on the opposite side. William Pressly describes the scene in fuller detail in his catalog of the Folger's paintings:

Ophelia wears a white satin dress enlivened with blue sleeves, with a yellow lining and with gold trim on the bodice. The theatre historian George Odell mentions that white satin, in contrast to black velvet, is the usual dress for gentle, less tragic heroines, such as Juliet, and for mad ladies. . . . Ophelia is dramatically highlighted as if painted in direct sunlight, while the densely executed background is dark and subdued. Instead of being portrayed as manic or sweetly sad, she is shown with an intense, abstracted expression, her left hand clenched, her eyes shrouded in melancholy shadows. One blue slipper peeps out from beneath her gown, suggesting her inexorable progress toward the beckoning brook with its promise of welcoming oblivion. (49-50)

Is this an Ophelia deliberately and purposefully bent on her own destruction?