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Thursday, June 9, 2011

The inspiration for Ophelia?

Death of Ophelia - Eugene Delacroix

Steven Gunn of the Faculty of History, Oxford University, has given himself a fascinating project..

He is researching coroners' reports of accidental deaths in Tudor England.

So far, he has found a man who shot himself with an arrow that had jammed in his crossbow, a man who fell into a cesspit while relieving himself, and drowned in a particularly nasty way, and three people who were killed by performing bears.

He has also found a report, dated 1569, of the death of a two-year-old girl who fell into a mill pond and drowned while picking flowers.

Her name was Jane Shaxspere.

And she lived in a village just 20 miles from Stratford-Upon-Avon.

Well, 20 miles was a fair old gallop at the time, and William Shakespeare was just five years old -- but, as Gunn says, it's an intriguing coincidence.

Could old gossip -- perhaps the story of a cousin's sad accident -- have come to William's mind when he was cogitating an interesting death for the tragic heroine of Hamlet?

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