The heroine Ophelia was popular with 19th century artists. Rae shows the moment in Shakespeare's 'Hamlet' (Act 4, Scene 5) when Ophelia, mad with grief, symbolically recites the names of and scatters rue (a bitter herb), rosemary, pansies, fennel, columbine, daisies and violets.
'There's rosemary, that's for remembrance; pray, love, remember: and there is pansies, that's for thoughts.'
'There's fennel for you, and columbines: there's rue for you; and here's some for me: we may call it herb-grace o' Sundays: O you must wear your rue with a difference. There's a daisy: I would give you some violets, but they withered all when my father died: they say he made a good end.'
This romantic, theatrical image was, according to Normand, painted under the influence of the couple's neighbour, the artist Frederic Leighton (1830 - 1896).
It is interesting to note the composition of this painting, split almost perfectly in half, between light and dark. This perhaps symbolises the rent in Ophelia's mind caused by her grief.