Category Archives: Shakespeare

Food Shakespeare

Plants in King Lear

Fragments is delighted to bring you a guest post from Professor Andrew Hadfield, author of several books on Shakespeare, including Shakespeare and Republicanism, Shakespeare, Spencer and the Matter of Britain, and Shakespeare and Renaissance Politics. Professor Hadfield is currently writing a biography of the Elizabethan poet Edmund Spenser.

We are all familiar with the reference to samphire in King Lear, when Edgar claims that he sees a person hanging down the cliffs at Dover gathering the plant. Edgar provides details to make his account more realistic to his blind father, describing the actions of the imagined pauper as a ‘dreadful trade’. Lear is indeed a play which shows an acute interest in native English plants. Two scenes earlier Cordelia describes her father ‘Crowned with rank fumier and Furrow-weeds,/ With burdock, hemlock, nettles, cuckoo-flowers, /Darnel and all the idle weeds that grow / In our sustaining corn (IV.iv.3-6).  While the poor man gathers an edible plant in perilous circumstances, the king decks himself out with weeds that hinder the production of food, another way in which the play shows that the world has turned upside down.

As has previously been noted, Shakespeare may well have been reading books on plants before he wrote King Lear, as all the flowers represented in the play were contained in books on native English flora and fauna, most significantly John Gerard’s comprehensive The herball or Generall historie of plantes (London, 1597). Furthermore, Gerard has an entry for the plant, ‘Goat’s Beard’, which is also known as ‘Go to bed at noone’, a root that is best known now as salsify.  Salsify, like samphire was a poor person’s food, which, according to Gerard, ‘growes plentifully in most of the fields about London, as at Islington, Deptford and Putney, and in divers other places.’ It must then have been familiar to the audience at the Globe. The plant gets its Elizabethan name from the fact it ‘shuteth it selfe at twelve of the clocke, and showeth not his face open until the next dayes Sun doth make it floure anew, whereupon it was called Go to bed at noon’.

The last lines of the Fool are ‘And I’ll go to bed at noon’ (III.vi.73), which must surely be a reference to the root, as John Kerrigan has argued persuasively. As well as showing the Fool’s decline alongside his kingly sun, the reference is also to the sort of basic food that the poor had to eat, as salsfiy, like samphire, was an edible root that foragers could use, although neither appear in contemporary recipe books.  Lear has just requested that they ‘go to supper i’the morning’, a sign that everything has been turned around, and the Fool quips that they will now have to make do with humble fare (as well as stating that his day has been disrupted). King Lear makes much of extravagant hospitality and Lear’s expectations that his knights will be feasted by his daughters after he has ceased to be king.  Out on the heath and at the edges of his kingdom, ordinary folk have to take what they can get, a painful lesson that the deprived king is starting to learn.  Even so, he still wastes his time picking weeds to put in his hair, a luxury that people like the samphire gatherer cannot risk, as the Fool realises in his last warning to his master.

©Andrew Hadfield 2010.

This article was first printed in Notes and Queries, Vol.255 [New Series, Vol.57]. No 3. September 2010

© 2009-2012 All Rights Reserved

Poetry Shakespeare

The Phoenix and the Turtle

    
This poem by Shakespeare was first published in Robert Chester’s Loves Martyr or, Rosalins Complaint. Allegorically shadowing the truth of Loue, in the constant Fate of the Phoenix and Turtle (1601). Originally untitled, scholars later named it The Phoenix and the Turtle.

     

The Phoenix and the Turtle

Let the bird of loudest lay,
On the sole Arabian tree,
Herald sad and trumpet be,
To whose sound chaste wings obey.

But thou shrieking harbinger,
Foul precurrer of the fiend,
Augur of the fever’s end,
To this troop come thou not near.

From this session interdict
Every fowl of tyrant wing,
Save the eagle, feather’d king:
Keep the obsequy so strict.

Let the priest in surplice white
That defunctive music can,
Be the death-divining swan,
Lest the requiem lack his right.

And thou treble-dated crow,
That thy sable gender mak’st
With the breath thou giv’st and tak’st,
‘Mongst our mourners shalt thou go.

Here the anthem doth commence:
Love and constancy is dead;
Phœnix and the turtle fled
In a mutual flame from hence.

So they lov’d, as love in twain
Had the essence but in one;
Two distincts, division none:
Number there in love was slain.

Hearts remote, yet not asunder;
Distance, and no space was seen
‘Twixt the turtle and his queen:
But in them it were a wonder.

So between them love did shine,
That the turtle saw his right
Flaming in the phœnix’ sight;
Either was the other’s mine.

Property was thus appall’d,
That the self was not the same;
Single nature’s double name
Neither two nor one was call’d.

Reason, in itself confounded,
Saw division grow together;
To themselves yet either neither,
Simple were so well compounded,

That it cried, ‘How true a twain
Seemeth this concordant one!
Love hath reason, reason none,
If what parts can so remain.’

Whereupon it made this threne
To the phœnix and the dove,
Co-sapremes’ and stars of love,
As chorus to their tragic scene.

THRENOS.

Beauty, truth, and rarity,
Grace in all simplicity,
Here enclos’d in cinders lie.

Death is now the phœnix’ nest;
And the turtle’s loyal breast
To eternity doth rest,

Leaving no posterity:
‘Twas not their infirmity,
It was married chastity.

Truth may seem, but cannot be;
Beauty brag, but ’tis not she;
Truth and beauty buried be.

To this urn let those repair
That are either true or fair;
For these dead birds sigh a prayer.

Ben Jonson Playwrights Poetry Shakespeare Stage

That Shakespeare wanted Arte, and sometimes Sense

In 1618 the playwright Ben Jonson undertook to make an exhausting journey from London to Edinburgh on foot. While in Scotland he spent some time at the home of the poet William Drummond, who made notes of his conversations with Jonson which were eventually published in 1711. Drummond’s notes serve as a most revealing source for Jonson’s own life, however the following fragments are some of the more gossipy
information Jonson shared with Drummond. They make for compelling reading, shedding light on Jonson’s personal opinion of his fellow poets and playwrights.

Spencer’s stanzas pleased him not, nor his matter, the meaning of which Allegorie he had delivered in papers to Sir Walter Raughlie.

Donne, for not keeping of accent, deserved hanging. But he esteemeth John Donne the first poet in the World, in some things: his verses of the Lost Chaine he hath by heart; and that passage of the Calme, That dust and feathers doe not stirr, all was so quiet. [He] affirmeth Donne to have written all his best pieces ere he was 25 years old.

That next to himself only Fletcher and Chapman could make a Masque.

That Shakespeare wanted Arte, and sometimes Sense.

His acquaintance and behaviour with poets living with him: Daniel was at jealousies with him. Drayton feared him, and he esteemed not of him. That Francis Beaumont loved too much himself and his own verses. He beat Marston, and took his pistoll from him.  That Markham was not of the number of the Faithfull Poets, and but a base fellow.  That such were Day and Middleton. That Chapman and Fletcher were loved of him.  Overbury was his first friend, then turn’d his mortall enemie.  That the Irish having robd Spenser’s goods, and burnt his house and a little child new born, he and his wyfe escaped, and after, he died for lack of bread in King Street, and refused 20 pieces sent to him by my Lord of Essex, and said, ‘He was sorrie he had no time to spend them.’

Sharpham, Day, Dekker, were all rogues.

Francis Beaumoment died ere he was 30 years of age.

Donne’s grandfather, on the mother side, was Heywood the Epigrammatist.

Walter Raughlye esteemed more of fame than conscience

Marston wrote his Father-in-laws preachings, and his Father-in-law his comedies

Sir Philip Sydney was no pleasant man in countenance, his face being spoiled with pimples.

He said to Prince Charles of Inigo Jones, that when he wanted words to express the greatest villaine in the world, he would call him an Inigo.

His Epitaph, by a companion written, is

Here lyes Benjamin Johnson dead,
And hath no more wit than goose in his head,
That as he was wont, so doth he still
Live by his wit, and evermore will.

An other:

Here lyes honest Ben
That had not a beard on his chen.

And this which is (as he said) a picture of him-selfe.

I doubt that love is rather deafe than blinde,
For else it could not bee,
That shee,
Whom I adore so much should so slight mee,
And cast my sute behinde.

I am sure my language to her is as sweet,
And all my closes meet
In numbers of as subtile feete
As makes the youngest hee
That sits in shadow of Apollos tree.
O! but my conscious feares,

That flye my thoughts betweene,
Prompt mee, that shee hath seene
My hundred of gray haires,
Told six and forty yeares,
Read so much waste, as she cannot embrace
My mountaine belly, and my rockye face,
And all these, through her eies, have stopd her eares.

January 19, 1619

Sources:
Ruddiman, Thomas, Ed., The Works of William Drummond of Hawthornden, Consisting of Those which were formerly Printed and Those which were design’d for the Press. Now published from the Author’s Original Copies, Printed by James Watson, Edinburgh (1711)
Patterson, R.H.F., Ben Jonsons’s Conversations with William Drummond of Hawthornden, Blackie & Sons, London, Glasgow, Bombay (1923)

© 2009-2012 All Rights Reserved

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Carnivalesque 64

Fragments is very pleased to be hosting the 64th edition of Early Modern Carnivalesque, a gathering of some of the most interesting blog posts from the early modern blogging community.

First up we have the fate of the Wedgewood Museum over at the award-winning Georgian London. Lucy Inglis considers the plight of the Wedgewood Collection, and its formation under artisan Josiah Wedgewood, who died in 1725.

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From the decorative arts, to art of a very different nature, Caroline Rance at The Quack Doctor explores the unusual medicinal practise of diagnosis via urine from 1815.

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Taking a detour from urine to royalty, Nick, at Mercurius Politicus, reveals some intriguing royalist graffiti in Cheam.

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Odd fellows from Roy, at Early Modern Whale, who takes a look at the early modern Fortune Teller.

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‘My appetite is sick for want of a capacity to digest your favours.’ Women in Medieval and Early Modern History offer up some extraordinary early modern chat up lines.
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Once you’ve wooed your beloved, you might like to make them a John Evelyn salad. The Gentleman Administrator reveals all you need to know.

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The World Cup may be over, but the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust have devised a means to keep your interest alive. Iago is in mid-field in Shakespeare’s Fantasy Football

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From Iago to a villain of a different kind, Executed Today examines the hanging of pirate John Quelch.    
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Speaking of villains, cartoonist Ade Teal kindly provides us with caricatures of two early modern rogues:



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On the other side of the Atlantic, Warren, artistic director of early modern music ensemble Magnificat, recently visited Spain, and reports back on the 18th century composer Martini’s enormous collection of music manuscripts and partbooks  

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More printing, this time from the Two Nerdy History Girls, who witnessed the early modern printing process in action.
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Sally, over at Travels and Travails in Eighteenth Century England, has been exploring medicinal recipes, including the Lady Puckring’s salve for sore brests.
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From sore breasts to slippery weather, Emily at The Artist’s Progress reveals the history of early modern caricature.
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Art of a different nature from the engraver Mr Read, who entertains with more spectral escapades at The Cogitations of Read.

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And Ben, at Res Obscura, has been getting to grips with some 17th century  apothecary poetry.

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Finally, here at Fragments, I’ve been exploring the last will and testament of Mr William Shakespeare, gent. 

If you’re interested in finding out more about Carnivalesque, or would like to be a host, contact the lovely Sharon at Early Modern Web
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