From roses to radishes, William Shakespeare referenced over 170 plants in his poems and plays. And thanks to Gerit Quealy’s new book, Botanical Shakespeare, you can now read about every single one.
Boasting a forward by Helen Mirren and gorgeous artwork by Sumié Hasegawa-Collins, Botanical Shakespeare serves as an “illustrated compendium of all the flowers, fruits, herbs, trees, seeds, and grasses cited by the world’s greatest playwright.” Each plant’s entry lists every Shakespeare reference and includes a color portrait by Hasegawa-Collins. A dictionary at the end also examines each plant’s characteristics, even exploring some “long-standing Shakespeare botanical mysteries.”
Browse our gallery to view some of the book’s stunning illustrations paired with beautiful (and, sometimes, downright bawdy) lines from Shakespeare.
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Also known as: Mandragora, a narcotic plant whose forked root "is often anthropomorphized into screaming men or shrieking creatures dug out of the earth."
"And shrieks like mandrakes' torn out of the earth/That living mortals, hearing them, run mad."
—Juliet, Romeo and Juliet (Act 4, Scene 3)
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Also known as: Opium Poppy, a narcotic with "serious to fatal side effects if used together with Mandrake."
"Not poppy or mandragora,/Nor all the drowsy syrups of the world,/Shall ever medicine thee to that sweet sleep/Which thou ownedst yesterday."
—Iago, Othello (Act 3, Scene 3)
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Also known as: Yellow Iris
"This common body/Like to a vagabond flag upon the stream/Goes to and back, lackeying the varying tide,/To root itself with motion."
—Octavius Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra (Act 1, Scene 4)
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Also known as: Henbane, a "poison that the Roman natural philosopher Pliny called 'offensive to the understanding.'"
"Were such things here as we do speak about?/Or have we eaten on the insane root/That takes the reason prisoner?"
—Banquo, Macbeth (Act 1, Scene 3)
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Also known as: Sweet Potato, although "scholars debate which tuber [Potato or Sweet Potato] is meant."
"Let the sky rain potatoes; let it thunder to the tune of Greensleeves, hail kissing-comfits, and snow eringoes."
—Falstaff, Merry Wives of Windsor (Act 5, Scene 5)
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Also known as: Warden or Popering, a "Flemish-named fruit used as a bawdy homophone for 'pop her in.'"
"Romeo, that she were O, that she were/An open arse, thou a poperin' pear."
—Mercutio, Romeo and Juliet (Act 2, Scene 1)
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Botanical Shakespeare is available now from HarperCollins.