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The Grace of Plants: Shakespeare and Botany

Saturday 9 April 2016

1 Hour


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Ticket price

Author and former publisher Margaret Willes talks about plant references in Shakespeare with help from exquisite hand-drawn illustrations from a copy of John Gerard’s 1597 herbal held in the Bodleian.

Shakespeare refers to the ‘powerful grace’ of plants in Romeo and Juliet, and it is clear from his works that he was familiar with a wide range of botany: flowers, herbs, fruit and vegetables. Falstaff invites the sky to rain potatoes, newly introduced to Elizabethan England and thought to be an aphrodisiac, while Lady Capulet orders quinces for Juliet’s marriage feast to aid fertility. In her talk about Shakespeare’s references to plants, Willes also calls upon the exquisite hand-coloured illustrations from the copy of John Gerard’s 1597 herbal in the Bodleian Library.

Willes is a former publisher and author of A Shakespearean Botanical; Pick of the Bunch: The Story of Twelve Treasured Flowers; and The Making of the English Gardener: Plants, Books and Inspiration 1560–1660.

Presented by the Bodleian Libraries