So, "Shakespeare wrote Hamlet in about 1600." But, "Hamlet speaks with his father's ghost"; "Ophelia drowns herself because ..."
Also do a search for "Literary present tense" and you'll get a better understanding from a selection of opinions.
PS: Yes, if you're answering a question, you should keep to the tense of the question. If the question is "Why did Ophelia drown herself?" it would be reasonable to answer with "Ophelia drowned herself because ..."
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