It was a great experience, and I couldn't help but note the mention of a mermaid in Act 4, Scene 7. It's one of the more tragic moments in the play, when Gertrude reports the drowning of Ophelia to Claudius and Laertes. It's also one of the most beautiful speeches in the play (in my opinion). I cannot think of another death in Shakespeare described with such tender and delicate language, which only highlights the tragedy of Ophelia's untimely passing.
It's a scene that numerous artists have painted over the centuries. Here's one of my favorites by Sir John Everett Millais, followed by Gertrude's speech.
|Ophelia, Sir John Everett Millais, 1851-1852, Oil on canvas.|
There is a willow grows aslant a brook,
That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream;
There with fantastic garlands did she come
Of crow-flowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples
That liberal shepherds give a grosser name,
But our cold maids do dead men's fingers call them:
There, on the pendent boughs her coronet weeds
Clambering to hang, an envious sliver broke;
When down her weedy trophies and herself
Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide;
And, mermaid-like, awhile they bore her up:
Which time she chanted 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.