Halloween Tutorial: Hamlet's Drowned Ophelia

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Sarah C.
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Editor's note: This part two of Sarah's three-part Shakespearean heroines Halloween series. Check out her sleepwalking Lady Macbeth tutorial from earlier this week. Juliet is up tomorrow!

Hamlet is the pinnacle of English literature. (We peaked early.) That's my opinion, of course, though I’m hardly unique in thinking so. Shakespeare really got to go nuts with Hamlet, careening from dazzling wordplay to lowbrow goofiness to arguably the most eloquent exploration of mortality and what it means to be a human that’s ever been put to the page. 

And the tragedy and poetry of Ophelia’s death in particular has fascinated visual artists for centuries, most famously Sir John Everett Millais’ painting modeled by Raphaelite superstar Lizzie Siddal. Do a Google image search sometime--the iconography is striking.

Here's how to transform into Ophelia for Halloween. All you need is a little makeup, a few fake flowers, and an inexpensive nightgown, which I showed you where to find here

Get In Character: 4 Different Ophelias

Her clothes spread wide And, mermaid-like, awhile they bore her up; Which time she chaunted snatches of old tunes, As one incapable of her own distress, Or like a creature native and indued Unto that element; but long it could not be Till that her garments, heavy with their drink, Pull'd the poor wretch from her melodious lay To muddy death

shakespeare hamlet ophelia characters

Clockwise from top left: Hernest Hebért, Helena Bonham Carter, Millais painting. 

Step 1: Deathly Pallor   

applying grey face paint

I began working with a Halloween kit I picked up at CVS, covering my face and shoulders in the grayish-white shade with a foundation brush and contouring with the darker gray, blending with my fingers as I went. They’re not easy to work with, though. I recommend going with your lightest foundation (your winter shade, if you have one).  

Step 2: Pretty Dead Girl Eyes 

applying dark eye makeup

For pretty dead girl eyes, I used the gorgeous plum shade in Guerlain’s Eye Shadow Duo in Cygne Noir, pressing pigment around my entire eye in a wide circle. There’s no great technique here: blend outward with tiny circles around the eye and don’t worry if it’s slightly messy--so are the dark circles we’re evoking! 

Step 3: Waterlogged Nails 

light blue nails

For waterlogged dead girl nails, layer dark blue, light blue, and nude. Or skip the nude and just use nail polish remover to wipe away some of the blue.    

Purple Lips 

shakespeare hamlet ophelia halloween look

I used MAC Lipstick in Pure Heroine with MAC Cyber on the inside. For the inside shade, just close your lips around the bullet and twist. It looks stupid, but it works. 

Finishing Touches 

Add some sheen for a wet look on cheekbones, collarbones, shoulders, etc. I used Skinfood Royal Honey Soothing Balm, but Vaseline works too. 

For hair, scrunch in Old-school L.A. Looks Wet Look Gel and thread in little real or fake flowers secured with bobby pins.  

shakespeare hamlet ophelia halloween look

There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember.

  • What's your favorite Shakespearean character? 
  • Have you ever dressed up as a character from Shakespeare for Halloween? Pics in the comments!