Flowers for the Bard

On Saturday, May 4 and Sunday, May 5, the Arboretum will host Shore Shakespeare’s Imageproduction of Twelfth Night. Unsure of the connection between plants and the Bard? Consider the following: In his plays, Shakespeare mentions 181 plant species. The list includes many plants that are native to the Eastern Shore, such as blackberry, ash, birch, fern, elm, cypress, and holly. Enthusiasts of the playwright and of gardening can combine their passions by planting a Shakespeare garden composed of plants from their favorite plays.

Plants play villain as well as hero in Shakespearean literature. Juliet beseeches Romeo to forsake family ties for true love with the famous words “What’s in a name? That which we call a Rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” then later uses mandrake to feign her death. Root of hemlock and slips of yew are placed into the witches’ cauldron in Macbeth, along with eye of newt and fillet of fenny snake.

Like many of his time, Shakespeare was well versed in the language of flowers. In Hamlet, he writes, “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance, pray you love, remember” as well as “…and there is pansies, that’s for thoughts.” Shakespearean sonnets are as rich in botanical metaphor as his plays. The famous Sonnet #18 reads:

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May.
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.

Rough winds notwithstanding, I plan on welcoming May with Shore Shakespeare’s production of Twelfth Night and a picnic under the stars. Consider joining me at the Arboretum, “Where flowers do paint the meadow with delight.”

by Jenny Houghton
Youth Program Coordinator

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