A Shakespearean Botanical
By Margaret Willes
When John Gerard published his herbal in 1597, Elizabeth I was on the throne and Shakespeare was at the height of his powers. Gerard’s original herbal, part of the Bodleain Library’s extraordinary collection, is superbly illustrated with woodblock prints and filled with 16th-century knowledge about plants, it is also very clearly written as a manual for practical use.
Margaret Willes has chosen 50 plants mentioned by the clearly well-informed Shakespeare and married them with entries from Gerard’s herbal. Some quotes are famous: 'I know a bank where the wild thyme grows’ (Oberon), or Ophelia’s, 'There’s Fennel for you, and columbines’, but Falstaff and Richard II’s gardeners are amongst the dramatis personae who produce wonderful references that might otherwise have been overlooked.
Willes’s light touch and expert knowledge allows insight into how much the Elizabethan people, including Shakespeare, relied upon plants for medicinal and culinary purposes. She also reveals how this botanical knowledge had deep roots in folklore and bore strong symbolic associations.
Hardback, bound with green endpapers
Extent: 128 pp
Illustrations: 60 colour illustrations
Dimensions: H:18.4cm, W:11.4cm, D:2.3cm
ISBN-10: 1851244379; ISBN-13 978 1851244379