To commemorate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death, we've joined with Library and Learning Resources to put together a small exhibition on the references to flowers and herbs in his plays. Although he sometimes includes them in descriptive passages, his most common usage of them is in terms of their symbolic attributes. Among the items shown is an illustration from a copy of Hamlet produced by the Birmingham School of Printing in 1940 that shows the scene in which an increasingly unbalanced Ophelia distributes herbs to the members of the Danish court in the wake of her father’s death.
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-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 (Act 4, Scene 5)
For their contribution to the display, Hugh Morgan and Janice Wright of Library and Learning Resources have chosen Gerard’s Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes, which mentions all of these plants and was first published in 1597. You can see Gerard's illustration of rosemary in the image above.
The case also contains a copy of a booklet produced by Birmingham School of Printing to commemorate the opening of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in 1940 and several examples of calligraphy featuring quotes from the bard’s work that were produced by students of the School of Art in the 1930s.
Why not come and have a look at the display?