Shakespeare Garden

Flowers and plants played an important role in the imagery throughout Shakespeare’s literary masterpieces. While some of the analogies are recognizable, others are not as familiar. This is because Shakespeare relied on the language of flowers—symbolic meanings attached to different flowers—to create elaborate metaphors.

A = Annual       B = Biennial       P = Perennial

Below are some of the flowers mentioned in his works:

Common Name
Latin Name
Reference in Shakespeare Literature
Language of Flowers
Columbine Aquilegia vulgaris (P) ” I am that flower…that columbine” — Love’s Labour’s Lost Resolve to win, anxiety
 Wormwood Artemisia  
absinthium (P)
“Wormwood, wormwood.”         – Hamlet            Absence
 Daisies Bellis perennis (P) “When daises pied, and violets blue /  And lady-smocks all silver white / And cukoo-buds of yellow hue /Do paint the meadows with delight…”             – Love’s Labour’s Lost    Innocence
Calendula Calendula officinalis (A)   “Hark! Hark! the lark at heaven’s gate sings,/ And Phoebus ‘gins arise… And winking Mary-buds begin / to open their golden eyes…”             – Cymbeline Joy, health, remembrance
Harebell,                BlueBell                      Campanula  rotundifolia (P)           “…thou shalt not lack / The flower that’s like, thy face, pale primrose, nor / The azured  harebell, like thy veins…”  – Cymbeline Humility, constancy, gratitude
Carnations Dianthus barbatus, Dianthus caryophyllus (A)   “…the fairest flowers o’ the season / Are our carnations, and streak’d gillyvors…”          – The Winter’s Tale Long-lasting, dignity, taste
 Fennel Foeniculum  vulgare (A) “There’s fennel for you and columbine.”  – Hamlet  Flattery, faithlessness
 Strawberry Fragaria × anannassa (P)  “Tell me but this / Have you not sometimes seen a handkerchief / Spotted with strawberries in your wife’s hand?” – Othello Righteousness, love
 Ivy  Hedera (A) “If aught possess thee from me, it is  dross / Usurping ivy, brier or idle moss.” — Comedy of Errors Eternal fidelity
Iris Iris (P) “What say’st thou, my  fair flower-de-luce?”– Henry V Heraldic  symbol, royalty
Sweet Peas Lathyrus odoratus (A) “Ceres, most bounteous lady, thy rich leas/ Of wheat, rye, barley, vetches, oats and  pease…” – The Tempest Abundance, promise, of things to come
Lavender Lavandula angustifolia (P) “Here’s flowers to you; / Hot lavender, mints, savory, marjoram…” – The Winter’s Tale Devotion, luck,     ardent attachment
Lily Lilium candidum (P) “To gild refined gold, to paint the lily / To throw perfume on a violet… Is wasteful and ridiculous excess.” – King John  Majesty
 Daffodil Narcissus (P) “…daffodils, that come before the swallow dares, and take the winds of March with beauty.”– The Winter’s Tale Self-love
 Sweet Majorum Origanum majorana (A)    “…she was the sweet majoram of the salad, or rather the herb of grace.”– All’s Well That End’s Well Blushes
 Poppy Papaver somniferum,
Papaver rhoeas (A)
Not poppy, nor mandragora, / Nor all the drowsy syrups of the world, / Shall ever medicine thee that, sweet sleep / Which thou owdest yesterday.” – Othello  Forgetfulness,
passing pleasure
Primrose, Oxlip  Primula japonica,
Primula elatior (P)
“…pale primroses / That die unmarried, ere they can behold / Bright Phoebus in his strength – a malady / Most incident to maids…” – The Winter’s Tale    I can’t live without you
fascicularis (P)
“And cuckoo-buds of yellow hue /do paint he meadows with delight…”
Love’s Labour’s Lost 
 Rose Rosa (R) “So sweet a kiss the golden sun gives not / To those fresh morning drops upon the rose.” – Love’s Labour’s Lost   Differs by color. Grace,
modesty, love,
Sweet Briar
Rosa eglanteria
(Rosa rubiginosa) (P)
“I know a bank where wild thyme blows, /Where oxlips and nodding violet grows, /Quite over-canopied with luscious, woodbine / With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine.” – A Midsummer Night’s Dream infidelity, enchantment
 Rosemary Rosmarinus
officinalis (A)
“There’s rosemary for you, that’s for remembrance; / Pray, love, remember…”
Rue Ruta graveolens (P) “…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.” – Hamlet   Regret
Sagina subulata (P)
“Under an oak, whose boughs were moss’d with age…” – As You Like It Maternal love,
Pansies Viola cornuta (A) “…and there is pansies. That’s for
thoughts.” – Hamlet
Happy thoughts,
sweetness, boldness
Violets Viola odorata (A) “The purple violets, and marigolds, / Shall as a carpet hang upon thy grave / While summers days do last.” – Pericles Virtue, affections