Did Ophelia Drown Herself?

Ophelia's death is questioned due to varying accounts regarding the circumstances of her death in William Shakespeare's play "Hamlet" and misinterpretation of the facts surrounding the announcement of her death, which could be understood as either a suicide or an accident. Ophelia's death is announced by Gertrude, Hamlet's mother, and it is recognized as one of the most poetic death announcements in English literature.

While Ophelia did climb the willow tree and fall in the water or brook as a branch snapped, she is reported by Gertrude to have made no effort in stopping herself from drowning, as she reports, "incapable of her own distress," which supports the fact that she committed suicide. The priest's admonition and the church denying Ophelia a Christian burial are also evidences that point to her suicide. However, if her death was an accident, Shakespeare's writing could have inconsistencies, as is witnessed in some of his other plays as well.

The mystery surrounding Ophelia's death makes the incident even more poetic and meaningful to the readers, who can combine between an accident, falling off a tree, with a perplexing and romantic suicide in which Ophelia's clothes get heavy with water and she sinks ignoring to save her life.