There ’s  rosemary, that’s for remembrance; pray, love, remember: and there is  pansies, that’s for thoughts
. . . There ’s  fennel for you, and  columbines: there ’s  rue  for you; and here ’s some for me: we may call it herb of grace o’ Sundays: O you must wear your rue with a difference. There ’s a  daisy. I would give you some  violets, but they withered all when my father died: they say he made a good end.
         — Hamlet ( IV, v, 172-9 )
Ophelia offered herbs and flowers to the king and queen.
What was she thinking? What did those plants mean?

In Act IV of Hamlet, Ophelia, driven to derangement by the death of her father, enters the court of King Claudius and Queen Gertrude and offers them certain flowers and herbs. Ophelia’s brother Laertes speaks in anguish as she enters.

“How now! what noise is that?
O heat, dry up my brains! tears seven times salt,
Burn out the sense and virtue of mine eye!
By heaven, thy madness shall be paid by weight,
Till our scale turn the beam. O rose of May!
Dear maid, kind sister, sweet Ophelia!
O heavens! is’t possible, a young maid’s wits
Should be as mortal as an old man's life?
Nature is fine in love, and where ’tis fine,
It sends some precious instance of itself
After the thing it loves”
Hamlet (IV, v , 53 - 63)

Each of these plants had a symbolic significance to Elizabethan audiences . . .

Continue >>