3/21 "Only Ophelia Knows" (album: Hemlock Honey and Crows) began as a combination of songwriting challenges during FAWM (February Album Writing Month).
Some of the lyrics come directly from the text of Shakespeare's Hamlet. Some of the imagery comes from the 1851-1852 painting "Ophelia" by Sir John Everett Millais.
The retelling of the story reflected in the song comes from the 2018 film "Ophelia" directed by Claire McCarthy, screenplay by Semi Chellas, based on the novel by Lisa Klein.
I was thinking about the secret networks of communication that women and marginalized communities have used for as long as there has been a need to keep information hidden.
I was thinking about the way songwriters hide the truth in plain sight. We can become experts in the metaphor within the metaphor. There are some songs I've written where the lyrics are telling 3 separate stories, laid on top of one another like phyllo pastry layers. Many of those meanings will never be revealed.
Musically there's a nod to the timing of the vocal motif Steven Price wrote into the soundtrack of the film, on the "doubt thou" lines. I wanted to drench this song in dissonant harmonies. They're my favourite part.
I can see Ophelia feigning madness and staging her own death. I can see the witch in the woods helping to revive her and I can see her travel abroad to start a new life with her daughter. I can hear the truth in the words of her retold story; the secret life never revealed to Shakespeare's imagination.
Some girls sing in riddles; it doesn't mean they're mad.