Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Weeding Shakespeare

The Bard in the Yard 

Most subject is the fattest soil to weeds
2 Henry IV 4.4.

 As part of my ongoing celebration of the birth of William Shakespeare (circa April 23rd 1564), and given that this is a period of ferocious weeding in Le Ripe's spring garden, I wish to draw attention to Shakespeare the landowner, cultivator and gardener
Images from the rural world abound in Shakespeare's verse and when it comes to horticulture there is an impression he speaks from direct knowledge. 
For example, weeds furnish evocative metaphors, yet the Bard really seems to know what he is talking about.
Perhaps in between composing sonnets and plays Shakespeare wandered out into the garden to help Anne with the weeding?*

Now 'tis the spring; and weeds are shallow-rooted;
Suffer them now,and they'll o'ergrow the garden,
And choke the herbs for want of husbandry. 
 2 Henry VI 3.1

The seeded pride/That hath to this maturity blown up/In rank Achilles, must or now be cropp'd,/Or, shedding, breed a nursery of like evil/To overbulk us all.
Troilus and Cressida 1.3

'tis [Denmark] an unweeded garden,/That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature,/Possess it merely!  
Hamlet 1.2


Why, he was met even now
As mad as the vexed sea, singing aloud
Crowned with rank fumiter, and furrow weeds,
With harlocks, hemlock, nettles, cuckoo-flowers,
Darnel, and all the idle weeds that grow
In our sustaining corn-
Search every acre in the high-grown field.
King Lear 4.4

Virtue? a fig! 'tis in ourselves that we are thus, or thus. Or bodies are our gardens; to the which, our wills are gardeners; so that if we will plant nettles, or sow lettuces; set hyssop, and weed up thyme; supply it with one gender of herbs, or distract it with many; either to have it sterile with idleness or manured with industry; why the power and corrigible authority of this lies in our wills.
Othello 1.3 

*There is a theory that Shakespeare returned to Stratford more often  than he is usually given credit for; it is also probable that he spent long months there when the plague hit London. Once he bought New Place it is possible that he preferred, when he could, to stay in the country to write and oversee his property. He certainly retired there. In any case he spent his childhood and youth in and near the country.

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