Botany in Romeo and Juliet

Chapman, Alex alexc at CALM.WA.GOV.AU
Mon Sep 12 22:28:53 CDT 2005


I reckon a Shakespearian favourite - Conium maculatum - Hemlock, might fit the bill - quite small white flowers, and most parts including the anise-like seeds are poisonous, but the scent is not claimed to be fragrant as such.

The folks at Perdue have all the details:


Alex R. Chapman
Western Australian Herbarium

On 11 Sep 2005, at 19:30, 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

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