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Is Hamlet's Ophelia based on Shakespeare's tragic cousin?

June 8, 2011 - London

A two-and-a-half-year-old girl who fell into a pond and drowned while out picking flowers in 1569 - when Shakespeare himself was five - could have inspired the tragic demise of the character of Ophelia, it has emerged.

Ophelia is one of Shakespeare's greatest tragic figures, ranking alongside Juliet, Cleopatra and Desdemona.

The link has been revealed by a study of accidental deaths in Tudor England.

A coroner's report showed that a Jane Shaxspere drowned aged two-and-a-half while picking corn marigolds 20 miles from Stratford-upon-Avon in 1569. Shakespeare was then about five, reports the Daily Mail.

The discovery has led to speculation that Jane could have been his younger cousin, and that her story inspired the death of Ophelia in Hamlet, who drowned after falling into a brook

The inquest jury recorded a 'misfortune' verdict on Jane's death, which happened at the mill pond at Upton Warren, Worcestershire.

Emma Smith, of Oxford's Faculty of English Language and Literature, said:

'Even if Jane Shaxspere were not related to the playwright, the echo of their names might well have meant this story stuck in his mind.


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