The Herb Society of America Blog
By Jen Munson, HSA Education Chair
‘There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance; pray, love, remember: and there is pansies. that’s for thoughts.’ (Hamlet 4.5.248)
William Shakespeare’s poetic plays are filled with dramatic imagery and references to plants, herbs, trees, vegetables, and other botanicals. Shakespeare’s awareness of the botanical world was near the level of herbalists of that period, and the use of plants throughout his plays is done with unparalleled sophistication. They are used to enhance ideas and describe characters, as well as for metaphors. For example, Hamlet describes the state of Denmark as “…an unweeded garden / That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature” (Hamlet 1.22.134-136).
Plants are used for evil doings and central plot development. They are transformed into potions that are lust invoking, (Viola tricolor in Midsummer Nights Dream), sleep inducing (Atropa belladonna in Romeo and Juliet), and as poisons…
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