In 1897 audiences welcomed Johnston Forbes-Robertson's new interpretation of Hamlet to the London stage, and his sane, intelligent Prince was received as an exciting departure from tradition. Mrs Patrick Campbell's own experiments with the role of Ophelia in this production were not so warmly greeted, critics describing her playing as ‘curiously weak’ and ‘unconvincing and unimpressive’. Campbell had rejected the conventional model of the character as emblematic of the prettiness and pathos exemplified by Ellen Terry, and instead offered a vacant, depressive, ‘beaten’ Ophelia. In this article, Fiona Gregory examines the influences behind this choice, including the actress's own experience of mental illness and the notorious ‘rest cure’. The reception of the performance is read in terms of contemporary attitudes to Ophelia and mental illness, as well as of responses to Campbell and her celebrity identity in the visual arts. Ultimately, Campbell's performance of Ophelia can be read as a ‘witness account’ of neurasthenia and the ‘rest cure’, to stand alongside texts such as Charlotte Perkins Gilman's story ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’. Fiona Gregory lectures in the Centre for Theatre and Performance at Monash University, and has published work on the career of actress Judith Anderson, Australian cultural history, and Victorian and Edwardian writers. She is currently undertaking a wide-ranging study of actresses and mental illness from the nineteenth century to the present day, drawing on historical examples and literary and cultural representations to consider the intersections of ‘hysteria’ and the ‘histrionic’.