Botany in Romeo and Juliet

Dirk Albach albach at GMX.NET
Mon Sep 12 16:01:08 CDT 2005


Nerium is not really a small-flowered species. What about Daphne mezereum?
common in English woodlands, small fragrant flowers, and quite toxic, with a
name that can inspire a poet.

Dirk

>
> Let's try Nerium oleander.  It produces very toxic cardiac glycosides and,
> in
> at least some cultivated forms, can be quite fragrant.  It's also native
> to
> the Mediterranean region, so it could easily have been known to
> Shakespeare.
>
> Dick J.
>
> Martin Dubé wrote:
>
> > Here is a question for those fellow botanists versed in Shakespeare's
> > writings (what I am not, obviously). This was first sent to me by a
> > certain Mr. Simons living in Ontario, Canada.
> >
> > ...........
> > 'In December I will be playing the role of Friar Laurence in a local
> > amateur production of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet".  This character
> is
> > a Franciscan friar and botanist who attempts to use both his spiritual
> > wisdom and his scientific knowledge to help Romeo and Juliet (to no
> avail,
> > as everyone knows.)
> >
> > In his very first speech in the play (Act II Scene 3), the friar is
> giving
> > a lecture on botany, which also extends into philsophy and psychology.
> He
> > introduces his student to the concepts he is teaching by showing him a
> > plant, which he describes as follows:
> >
> > "Within the infant rind of this small flower
> > Poison hath residence, and medicine power
> > For this, being smelled, with that part cheers each part
> > Being tasted, stops all senses with the heart."
> >
> > Just on the chance that there might be a real botanist in the audience,
> I
> > would like to identify and use on stage a plant which matches this
> > description.  That would mean some part of it would be fatally (or at
> > least seriously) poisonous and it would have a small flower whose scent
> an
> > aromatherapist would consider restorative.'
> > ...........
> >
> > Thanks in advance.  Yours answers will be forwarded to that amateur
> actor.
> >
> > Martin
>
> --
> Richard J. Jensen              | tel: 574-284-4674
> Department of Biology      | fax: 574-284-4716
> Saint Mary's College         | e-mail: rjensen at saintmarys.edu
> Notre Dame, IN 46556    | http://www.saintmarys.edu/~rjensen
>

--
Dr. Dirk Albach
Institut für Spezielle Botanik
Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
Bentzelweg 9b
55099 Mainz

Tel.: +49 (0)6131 3923169
Fax.: +49 (0)6131 3923524




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