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Gardening Advice from Shakespeare

The plays of William Shakespeare are abound with allusions to plants and flowers.

A portrait of William Shakespeare

Photo: John Taylor

William Shakespeare.

William Shakespeare was born on April 23rd 1564 and died on the same day in 1616. He seems to have had a good knowledge of plants and flowers because his plays are studded with references to them.

In Romeo and Juliet he wrote the well known: “That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.”

However, he was obviously familiar with the practical aspects of gardening, too, since he wrote “Sweet flowers are slow and weeds make haste.” He was also someone who responded to the way gardens stimulate all of the senses, since in Twelfth Night there are the lines:

That straine again! It had a dying fall:

O it came o’er my ear like the sweet sound

That breathes upon a bank of Violets

Stealing and giving odour.

He must have been familiar too with tools as in Hamlet, he said:

“Come my spade. There is no ancient gentleman gardeners, ditches and gravemakers; they hold up Adam’s profession.”

In Henry IV, Part 1 he says:

“Though the Camomile the more it is trodden on the faster it grow, yet youth the more it is wasted the sooner it wears.”

In Henry IV, Queen Margaret warns,

“Now tis the spring, and weeds are shallow rooted; suffer them now, and they’ll outgrow the garden.”

Moya Andrews

, originally from Queensland, Australia, served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties at Indiana University until 2004. In the same year, Moya began hosting Focus on Flowers for WFIU. In addition, Moya does interviews for Profiles, is a member of the Bloomington Hospital Board, and authored Perennials Short and Tall from Indiana University Press.

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