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Shakespeare’s Plays And Plants

William Shakespeare was inspired by plants and flowers when writing his famous plays. His writing is filled with botanical metaphors.

a portrait of William Shakespeare.

Photo: John Taylor

William Shakespeare used flower and plant metaphors in many of his plays.

William Shakespeare lived in 16th century England, but his plays are timeless. There are many references to plants and flowers that we still recognize today.

In the spring when we are enjoying our flowering bulbs, it is interesting to note that, in The Winter’s Tale, Shakespeare, long ago, wrote: “When daffodils begin to peer, with heigh the doxy, over the dale, why then comes in the sweet o’ the year.”

In a Midsummer Night’s Dream he has Oberon say, “I know a bank where the wild thyme blows, where oxlips and the nodding violet grows.”  In Hamlet he wrote, “…and there is pansies, that’s for thoughts.”

In Love’s Labor’s Lost there are the lines, “When daisies pied….do paint the meadows with delight,” and in the same play “I am that flower, that columbine.”

Born in the country, Shakespeare moved to the city later on in his life, but always remembered a lot about plants and their habits as well as the special characteristics of a variety of flowers. He capitalized on his keen observations of plant life to create metaphors about the human condition.

For example, in King Henry he wrote, “…for though the chamomile, the more it is trodden on, the faster it grows, yet youth, the more it is wasted the sooner it wears.” And in Hamlet “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance, pray you love, remember.”

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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