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Home :: Archive :: 2010 :: March ::
Art and Nature in The Winter's Tale

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 21.0142  Tuesday, 30 March 2010

From:         JD Markel < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
Date:         March 29, 2010 11:27:19 PM EDT
Subject: 21.0134  Art and Nature in The Winter's Tale
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0134  Art and Nature in The Winter's Tale

"What I don't quite understand is why Polixenes claims that marriage between a gentler scion and the wilder stock conceives a bark of baser kind"

At the juncture, or marriage, of the grafting, where the stock and scion meet, distorted bark grows. One might call it a scar. BTW, whatever season a plant flowers, it reproduces, disperses its seed, at the death of the flower, not its youth or mid-life.

The winter flower allusion is difficult. Perdita hands them so-called rosemary flowers.

>Give me those flowers there, Dorcas. Reverend sirs,
>For you there's rosemary and rue; these keep
>Seeming and savour all the winter long:

Handing someone a rosemary flower is unlike snipping a daisy stem and presenting the flower, peduncle, calyx/involucre, floral disk and ray. Flower is usually, but not always, normally taken to be the pretty petal parts. Rosemary petals are tiny. One would not present a single rosemary flower. A sprig would be presented, with the foliage visibly dominant. I don't know if the petals keep, dried or in water, over a length of time like a season, but the woody stem and leaves do keep, and maintain a pleasant odor.

Pol. Replies: 

>                         Shepherdess,
>A fair one are you--well you fit our ages
>With flowers of winter.

He thinks it is already winter and these must be winter flowers. Or rosemary and rue otherwise symbolize old age. Perdita thinks he means the former. She corrects him that the present time is between the death of summer and the worst of winter, and that the flowers of the day are gillyflowers. 

So does rosemary bloom in autumn? I think not in England. The flower is a leafy sprig. A slip of rosemary one might call it.

As for _Metamorphoses_, Book 14's Pomona and Vertumnus story offers parallels of interest for this passage including grafting, cutting, weather, disguise, unequal status, and reproduction both human and floral.

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