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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: April ::
"Shakespeare's Flowers and Plants"
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0774  Sunday, 24 April 2005

From:           Daniel Traister <
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 >
Date:           Friday, 22 Apr 2005 10:06:23 -0400
Subject:        "Shakespeare's Flowers and Plants" (an exhibition)

The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, 100 North 20th Street,
Philadelphia, has mounted (through May 28) an exhibition called
"Shakespeare's Flowers and Plants." Curated by Jude Robison, the
exhibition is on view at PHS from 9-5 weekdays.

Details may be available for some days at:
http://www.delawareonline.com/newsjournal/life/2005/04/21seeingbotanyast.html

But, in case that site comes down, this is what it says:

  Seeing botany as the Bard liked it
  By KENT STEINRIEDE / The News Journal
  4/21/2005

Doctors, lawyers, scientists and the clergy have all claimed that
Shakespeare came from their ranks. So why not gardeners?

Nearly 30 scenes in his plays take place in a garden, and his characters
seem to know what they're talking about when it comes to weeds, trees,
flowers and herbs and their properties, both medicinal and poetic.
"A Midsummer Night's Dream" takes place in a woods, and "As You Like It"
is set in the forest of Arden. Hamlet calls Denmark "an unweeded garden"
and urges his mother to "not spread the compost on the weeds to make
them ranker."

"He was really quite knowledgeable," says Jude Robison, library
conservator for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society in Philadelphia,
which features a small exhibit of Shakespeare's botanical world in the
library. The exhibit, which runs through June, includes botanical books
from Shakespeare's time and information on the Bard and his botanical
references.

The exhibit runs in conjunction with the Philadelphia Shakespeare
Festival's production of "As You Like It," which plays until May 28.

During Shakespeare's time, gardening became more common among all
classes, which meant that plants were a sort of common ground with which
all of his audience could identify, according to theater critic Tom
Prideaux in a 1977 article in Horticulture magazine about Shakespeare's
botanical connections.

If Shakespeare didn't garden himself, he probably knew many people who
did, or who at least knew about plants, Robison says.

His son-in-law, John Hall, was a doctor and herbalist and most likely
had botanical and medical books, such as John Gerard's "Herball or
General History of Plants," the best-known book on plants in English
during Shakespeare's time."It was the most comprehensive [herbal] until
the 17th century," Robison says.

Published in 1597, Gerard's book is made from rag paper and thick
leather binding and is similar to one Shakespeare may have used as a
reference. The wood-cut illustrations came from a Dutch herbal.

To add a dramatic touch, there is a debate whether Gerard plagiarized
his herbal from a translation of an earlier Latin book on plants,
Robison says.

IF YOU GO
Shakespeare's Flowers and Plants
WHERE: Pennsylvania Horticultural Society library, 100 N. 20th St.,
Philadelphia
WHEN: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays through May 28.
COST: Free.
INFORMATION: (215) 988-8800 or www.pennsylvaniahorticulturalsociety.org

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