The nature’s nature

One of the dominant element of the Shakespearean compositions is the nature: woods, forests, flowers and plants are some of the most important elements in his productions, where the nature is an active element which influences the development of the characters. The relationship between nature and the characters in the Shakespearean opera has a unique connotation: it is not an unkind-nature, not a positive guide that helps the characters. What Shakespeare presents is an universe where the man is responsible of what happens around him. But is that really possible to struggle against the nature’s strength? Or at the end it will all be meant to be as the power of the nature wants to? For a better understanding, I chose to talk about A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest, because they could be useful to clarify which is the role of the nature I am talking about.

Midsummer night’s dream, Glenn Marshall, 2012

Starting from the title, A Midsummer Night’s Dream presents more than the simple story of a wedding: the events take place during the night before the wedding between Theseo and Hippolita. There is not a detailed description of the natural elements that surrounded the protagonists, but in all the comedy the presence of the magical element connected to the nature is preponderant: it participates and observes quietly the characters’ choices. 
The introduction of the potent love potion of the purple, yellow and white wild flower shows how the nature is not that divine and mysterious strength that gives order and leads a man to his destiny, but, on the contrary, it is one of the instruments that its own creatures use on each other. 
Going on with the events, it turns out that the attempt of using the love potion of the magical flower fails and the only consequence is the confusion of all the characters involved. Shakespeare sets the drama of a powerless man, who tries to dominate the nature and subject it to his will, but without succeeding in it. It is important to say that the comedy ends during the first light of the day: the interchange day-night and dark-light could be considered as the symbol of the opposition between the human dimension, dominated by chaos, and the natural one, dominated by the order.

The Storm, Charles H. Buchel, 1904

The problem of the relationship man-nature is shown even in the tragedy The Tempest. Even in this case, the choice of the title is singular, evoking one of the four basic natural elements: the water, that become a way to express revenge. Shakespeare does not give a specific setting: it is not clear the name of the island, its geographical position and what kind of species live there. Once again, it seems that the nature is just an element of background, as a frame that contains characters and events. But, actually it is quite the opposite: the author wants to give nature a sense of mystery, making it a quiet and unknown energy capable of define man’s faith. 
In this tragedy, such as in the comedy I quoted in the lines before, what happens is not what the main character wanted: the tempest should have been an element for planning a revenge, but it actually led the story to a happy ending.

In both Shakespeare’s masterpieces, the characters pretend to be the creator, trying to take nature’s place. 
But what are the consequences? Do they succeed in it?
If we talk about nature in Shakespeare’s works, it is appropriate to underline its singular value. Looking at it in a superficial way, giving to the word only a literal meaning, which consist of the phenomena and elements used as setting in the representations, is not enough. It is necessary to give a deeper interpretation: nature is the instrument used by man for his purposes, but, at the same time, it is the guideline of the majority of the events. The human being has only the feeling that he can modify this energy according to his will, but in the end, he should admit that nature is the only one that can give order, no matter how hard he tries to control it.

Works cited:


Shakespeare’s star

November dawned, and winter loomed
A boy of eight, still in school
Not yet a somebody
As a nobody, he stood

A light, he noticed
On a clear day, that fall
Like a beacon
Amid a sea of candles
Inviting thou to look
Up above, calling all.

Supernova, a disaster
  They had called it
To all that would hear
A sign from heaven
Perhaps a warning

So to gods they had knelt
Out of fear
How scared they had felt
But the star had lingered
Mocking, for a year

Thirty years, gone by, so fast.
The star of light, died out,
Since when?
Few that even remember the past
Many stories regaled since then.

The boy, now a man
Perhaps, a king

The stories his crown
The words his power

Yet one story eludes him still.
One that would set in stone,
His name,
As the greatest of them all.

Would he write of mountains, high
Would he write of seas, of blue

A man, he wrote with quill
Of royal blood
Perhaps, a worthwhile gambit
 So, was the authors will

’To be or no to be?’,
He asked the story,
And penned it on a parchement.
It was then that he found the answer.

 He would henceforth be called
His name a legend
Now, Shakespeare will never fall

He remembered the star, so bright
So fascinating had it been
He honoured it with words
And named it in his story

With confidence,
 he had described the burning star
Even it’s postition, above and far
A good luck, perhaps,
For the story, brought him glory

As a final word,
I bring to thee.
Shakespeare, a king
We can all agree
Inspired many
Even me.

Indrek Lahe


Shakespeare's plants and shrubbery in Estonia

In this post I’m shortly going to describe some plants/shrubs that Shakespeare has used and whether they exist and if they are grown in Estonia or not.


Plantain aka cooking banana, are banana cultivars in the genus Musa whose fruits are generally used in cooking. They may be eaten while ripe or unripe and are generally starchy. Some cooking bananas are also referred to as green bananas or plantains. (Wikipedia, n.d) Bananas are not grown in Estonia, but are very well known and loved. Most bananas are imported to Estonia from either South-America or Asia, with India being the biggest exporter of bananas in the world. On the Estonian markets, sweet, dessert bananas are sold, which are consumed just by eating (Wikipedia, n.d)

Plantain tree

Senna aka Plantago Major, is a species of flowering plant in the plantain family Plantaginaceae. The plant is native to most of Europe and northern and central Asia, but has widely naturalised elsewhere in the world. It is known for its medical use for treating wounds. (Wikipedia, n.d)
In Estonia, Senna is a conservative plant, but found growing everywhere. It grows in paths, yards, coasts and meadows. In Estonian traditional medicine, Senna is known for its ability to stop bleeding and cleanse blood. The crushed leaves are put on fresh wounds. Senna is also used to treat liver and kidney diseases, head and toothache. The tea from dried leaves has been used as a lukewarm tool for cough and sputum. (Suik, Katrin 2017) 

Senna leaves

Thyme is an aromatic perennial evergreen herb with culinary, medicinal, and ornamental uses. Information of using thyme as a medicinal herb comes from Ancient Greece - Hippocrates has described the usage of thyme as well as Dioscroides. Ancient Egyptians used thyme for embalming. In the European Middle Ages, the herb was placed beneath pillows to aid sleep and ward off nightmares. Thyme was also used as incense and placed on coffins during funerals, as it was supposed to assure passage into the next life. Thyme is most commonly used in Mediterranean countries as is grows very well there. (Telegram, 2014) 
In Estonia, thyme is only grown as a cultural herb. It is also called by the name aed-liivatee. Dried leaves are mainly used to season soups, meat dishes and sausages. Thyme has an antiseptic quality. A well-known flavouring and medicinal plant, and also used in the cosmetics industry. Used for puffiness, menstrual pain, cleanses the intestines and acts as a diuretic. Tea can be made from dry leaves and adding a thyme soak to your bathwater works well for a cough. (Toidutare, n.d)

Flowering thyme

Willows, also called sallows, and osiers, form the genus Salix, around 400 species of deciduous trees and shrubs, found primarily on moist soils in cold and temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. Most species are known as willow, but some narrow-leaved shrub species are called osier, and some broader-leaved species are referred to as sallow (from Old English sealh, related to the Latin word salix, willow).
In Estonia, there are 20 natural and 10 in brought species of willow, and many hybrids. Estonian willows are sorted by their preferred growth spot. So either near water, in bogs, on meadows or on dunes. Some species are too afraid of the cold to grow in Estonia, but some only grow here. (Bio.edu.ee, n.d)
The highest and thickest silver willow in Estonia was 29 meters high and 7,83 m thick, and was located in Harjumaa at Raasiku railway station. The tree was destroyed in a fire in 2011. (Relve, Hendrik, n.d)

Golden weeping willow

Links used
  1. https://et.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banaan
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cooking_banana
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plantago_major
  4. http://www.telegram.ee/toit-ja-tervis/teeleht-tagasihoidlik-kuid-koikvoimas-ravimtaim
  5. http://toidutare.ee/v/t%C3%B6%C3%B6riistad/s%C3%B5nastik/maitsestamine/klassikalised_v%C3%BCrtsid/13D06/
  6. http://www.telegram.ee/toit-ja-tervis/tuumian-aromaatne-abimees-koha-ja-paljude-muude-haiguste-vastu
  7. https://et.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paju
  8. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willow
  9. http://bio.edu.ee/taimed/oistaim/paju.htm
  10. http://www.loodusajakiri.ee/eesti_loodus/artikkel1750_1747.html


Viola Tricolor

‘Hercai Menekşe’ in Turkish, or commonly known as ‘Viola Tricolor’, is an annual European wild flower. It flowers from April to September. It is a relatively small one, only 15 cm. and does not have a nice, distinctive smell. Although the flower makes up this deficiency by having interesting and different colors on its petals. This makes ‘Viola Tricolor’ a highly preferred choice for gardeners.
This flower also has another popular name mostly used in literature, which is ‘Love-in-idleness’. According to Wikipedia; the love-in-idleness was originally a white flower, struck by one of Cupid’s arrows, which turned it purple and gave it its magic love potion. When dripped onto someone's eyelids this love potion causes an individual to fall madly in love with the next person they see.

‘Yet mark'd I where the bolt of Cupid fell:
It fell upon a little western flower,
Before, milk-white, now purple with love's wound,
And maidens call it love-in-idleness.’
A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Act 2, scene 1)

As a key plot device, in his play ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, William Shakespeare used love-in-idleness superbly. The fairy king Oberon’s and mischievous fairy Puck’s intervention to the plot, using the magic love potion of the flower, creates a chaotic but also comical atmosphere in the play, which also resembles love’s effects in real life. So in a way, by using this flower, Shakespeare shows us that love can be used as a comical element, just like it can be used as a tragic one.

In Turkish folklore, ‘Hercai Menekşe’ has a lovely, short story. First of all, you have to know that the Turkish word ‘hercai’ means ‘fickle’ in English. So a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, two wild flowers fall in love. They bloom every spring and say hello to the sun, just like all other wild flowers. But before one particular spring, one of these lovers tells the other one:
‘Let’s not bloom in this spring like other flowers. Let’s bloom in the snowy days of winter, where every other flower escapes from the cold. Then the whole nature can be ours!’
Both of them decide not to bloom next spring. But suddenly, one of them blooms that spring, while the other one still waits for the snow and winter. Since that day, we call the one which waits for its lover and blooms in winter ‘Kardelen’ in Turkish or ‘Snowdrop’ in English, and the other one, the one that betrays its lover and blooms in spring ‘Hercai’. It is a really common word that Turkish people use, to describe an unfaithful lover, especially in songs and literary works.

Links used:



As Rosemary is to the Spirit, so Lavender is to the Soul (bethtrissel.wordpress, 2012)

William Shakespeare mentioned lavender in his play “The Winter’s Tale Act 4, Sc.4” “Here's flowers for you; hot lavender, mints, savory, marjoram; The marigold."(Goodreading)
Lavender has been known for its gentle and soothing fragrance since ancient times, it is also very useful for pregnant women and people who have a problems with the sleep.
Lavender was used by Greeks and Romans in public baths, the word lavender is derived from the Latin word lavare, or to wash. Lavender repels insects and also as a strewing herb, it offers a pleasing scent to us. Lavender was used to mask the scent of foul smells in the old streets, and remains a universally delicate and lovely scent for households worldwide. (Jeanroy A.)

German Commission E has approved lavender for use in case of insomnia, restlessness and nervous stomach irritations and for external use in baths for the treatment of functional circulatory disorders. 
Taking a bath in a lavender scented water, you can prevent or even relax away mild depression and anxiety. Lavender may even lower high blood pressure and improve circulation.  Oil of lavender may in some cases be effective in bringing back circulation to some part of your body that have lost feeling. Regular lavender bath can be enjoyed throughout a woman's pregnancy as it helps to relax. Lavender is a wonderful sleep aid. (Annie's Remedy)

A floral water can also be made, and used to sooth sensitive skin from rashes and quiet the heat of acne prone skin. The natural antiseptic properties are wonderfully soothing when applied to scrapes and cuts. (Jeanroy A.)

Martha Stewart wrote down a recipe of Lavender Icing that was pretty popular in Shakespearean time.

1/3 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon dried lavender
3 cups confectioners' sugar
Bring milk and lavender just to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat, and let steep 10 minutes. Strain, and discard lavender. Whisk in sugar until smooth. Strain again. Add food coloring until desired shade. Use immediately on cupcakes or any other cake. (Stewart M. 2007)

Works cited:
Jeanroy A. (https://www.thespruce.com/how-to-use-lavender-1761783)
Martha Stewart Living, May 2007 (https://www.marthastewart.com/340910/lavender-icing)

Shakespeare’s Italian garden

William Shakespeare lived between the XVI and the XVII century and he is considered as the most eminent poet and dramaturge of the western culture. His masterpieces are well known all around the world and some of them are even considered as the most influential examples of the man’s romantic ideals of that period, but not only. The performances of his dramaturgical operas are still nowadays dominant in the most important theatres of the world.

If we can say that almost everybody already knew what I wrote in the few lines above, maybe we cannot say the same for what I am going to write in the next ones.

Shakespeare was very interested in flora: he did not hide this passion, but he used it as an active element writing his operas. There are indeed many quotations about plants, flowers with their characteristics and features, sometimes even compared to the human soul. We can perceive this attitude in particular in the operas set in Italy. Did Shakespeare decide to do that because he was fascinated by the Italian landscapes? We've got several reasons to support that idea.

Thanks to its geography, Italy has a climate that allows the growth of many kind of species of plants and flowers. From the North to the South, passing through the islands, Shakespeare was fascinated by all that sceneries that none of them was excluded in his masterpieces: Othello, Romeo and Juliet and The Merchant of Venice belong to the category set in the Northern Italy, Coriolanus and The Tragedy of Julius Caesar in Rome, the Italian capital, located in the center of the country, and at last Much ado about Nothing and The Comedy of Errors in Sicily, an island located in the Southern Italy.

I quoted just a few of the Shakespearean masterpieces set in Italy, just to let you imagine how much the author was charmed by this country and its nature. Now let’s take a look to what kind of background Shakespeare expected to give to his “Italian” works.

Romeo and Juliet

Set in Verona, a city located in the Northern Italy, Romeo and Juliet is famous in all the world for its balcony scene.

But has anyone ever wondered which kind of flowers grew in Juliet’s garden?

In that area, spread is the growth of the Achillea, Saxifraga vandellii, Phyteuma comosum and the Saponaria, that you can see respectively in the following pictures.
Has anyone ever imagined that, while the two lovers were falling in love, they could smell the fragrance of these flowers?

The tragedy of Julius Caesar

This picture was taken in Rome, the Italian capital, known in all the world thanks to its history, and located in the center of Italy.

Who knows how many battles have been fought in these ruins?
Who can imagine how many people were there to assist them?

And what about the trees that we can see in the landscape?
They were the most assiduous spectators staying in the first line.

What we see in this picture are Pinus Pinaster, a kind of tree that grows next to the sea or where the weather is temperate. In this zone, it is common to see samples of Hedera elix, Juniperus and in spring Orchidaceae. This kind of greenery is typical in this area, where the climate is warm during the summer and the spring seasons, and not so cold during the winter and the autumn ones.
Below we can see pictures of the plants and trees that I have just mentioned.

Much Ado About Nothing

In the picture, we can see a citrus grove where Shakespeare set this masterpiece.

Can you smell the freshness of these citrus trees just looking at the picture?

Sicily, the island chosen by Shakespeare for this drama, is known for its trees, in particular Citrus and Olea europaea, which are the most important exportation source for the local trade. Indeed, these two elements are the basic foods for the Mediterranean diet. It is not difficult to understand why this scenery impressed Shakespeare so much.

Who would not want to take a walk here, breathing that unique smell, that only these kinds of places
can let you do it? Smells, colours, landscapes, flowers and trees are just a few elements that led Shakesperare to choose to set some of his dramas in this astonishing country. The nature, what sorrounds the characters, is so important for the development of the story and it is has a kind of influence on the reader’s mood.

I want to conclude citing the words of one of the main characters
of another “Italian” drama, Othello, set in Venice.

Iago: Our bodies are like gardens and
our willpower is like the gardener.
Depending on what we plant—weeds or lettuce,
or one kind of herb rather than a variety,
the garden will either be barren and useless,
or rich and productive.
Act 1, scene 3, p. 362

Trees and bushery

In this blogpost I’m going to describe some of the trees and bushery that Shakespeare has used in his works and their common and culinary uses.

Bay or bay-tree (Latin. Laurus nobilis) is an aromatic evergreen tree or large shrub with green, glabrous leaves. It is native to the Mediterranean region and is used as bay leaf for seasoning in cooking. Bay leafs are commonly used in cooking for their distinctive flavour and fragrance. The leaves are either dried or fresh. The leaves should be removed from the cooked food before eating. The leaves are often used to flavour soups, stews, braises and pâtés in Mediterranean cuisine and beans in Brazilian cuisine. (Wikipedia, n.d.)

Indian bay leaf Cinnamomum tamala

Elder or elderberry also called Sambucus is a genus of flowering. Elderberry fruit or flowers are used as dietary supplements for minor diseases such as flu, colds, constipation, and other conditions, often served as a tea, extract, or in a capsule. Health benefits of the elder plant include naturally improving colds, the flu, sinus issues, nerve pain, inflammation, chronic fatigue, allergies, constipation and even cancer. (Dr. Axe, 2017)

Sambucus berries (elderberries)

Herb of grace
Ruta graveolens, commonly known as rue, common rue or herb-of-grace, is a species of Ruta grown as an ornamental plant and herb. It is native to the Balkan Peninsula. It is now grown throughout the world in gardens, especially for its bluish leaves, and sometimes for its tolerance of hot and dry soil conditions. It is also cultivated as a medicinal herb, as a condiment, and to a lesser extent as an insect repellent. Rue has a culinary use, but since it is bitter and gastric discomfort may be experienced by some individuals, it is used sparingly. (Wikipedia, n.d.)

Common rue in flower

Hedera, commonly called ivy , is a genus of 12–15 species of evergreen climbing or ground-creeping woody plants in the family Araliaceae, native to western, central and southern Europe, Macaronesia, north-western Africa and across central-southern Asia east to Japan and Taiwan. Ivies are very popular in cultivation within their native range and compatible climates elsewhere, for their evergreen foliage, attracting wildlife, and for adaptable design uses in narrow planting spaces and on tall or wide walls for aesthetic addition, or to hide unsightly walls, fences and tree stumps. Numerous cultivars with variegated foliage and/or unusual leaf shapes have been selected for horticultural use. (Wikipedia, n.d.)

Hedera algeriensis

Line on lime-tree or linden tree is a tree native throughout most of the temperate Northern Hemisphere. The tree produces fragrant and nectar-producing flowers, the medicinal herb lime blossom. They are very important honey plants for beekeepers, producing a very pale but richly flavoured monofloral honey. The flowers are also used for herbal teas and tinctures. Linden trees produce soft and easily worked timber, which has very little grain and a density of 560 kg per cubic metre. It was often used by Germanic tribes for constructing shields. It is a popular wood for model building and for intricate carving. Lime flower tea has a pleasing taste, due to the aromatic volatile oil found in the flowers. The flowers, leaves, wood, and charcoal (obtained from the wood) are used for medicinal purposes. Linden flowers are used in herbalism for colds, cough, fever, infections, inflammation, high blood pressure, headache (particularly migraine), and as a diuretic (increases urine production), antispasmodic (reduces smooth muscle spasm along the digestive tract), and sedative. (Wikipedia, n.d.)
Tilia flowers

Limewood Saint George by Tilman Riemenschneider, circa 1490

Mespilus germanica, known as the medlar or common medlar, is a large shrub or small tree, and the name of the fruit of this tree. The fruit has been cultivated since Roman times, and is unusual in being available in winter, and in being eaten when bletted. It is eaten raw and in a range of dishes. Mespilus germanica pomes are one of the few fruits that become edible in winter, making it an important tree for gardeners who wish to have fruit available all year round. Mespilus germanica fruits are hard and acidic, but become edible after being softened, 'bletted', by frost, or naturally in storage given sufficient time. Once softening begins, the skin rapidly takes on a wrinkled texture and turns dark brown, and the inside reduces to the consistency and flavour reminiscent of apple sauce. This process can confuse those new to medlars, as a softened fruit looks as if it has spoiled. Once bletted, the fruit can be eaten raw and is often eaten as a dessert, or used to make medlar jelly. (Wikipedia, n.d.)

Foliage and fruit

Bletting begins on one side of the fruit. Bletted flesh is brown; ripe but unbletted flesh is white.

Links used:


Shakespeare's quotations

In the video below, you can get a glimpse of how Shakespeare made use of the various aspects of the natural world to create vivid imagery. 



Rosmarinus officinalis, commonly known as rosemary, is a woody, perennial herb with fragrant, evergreen, needle-like leaves and white, pink, purple, or blue flowers, native to the Mediterranean region. It is a member of the mint family Lamiaceae, which includes many other herbs. The name "rosemary" derives from the Latin for "dew" (ros) and "sea" (marinus), or "dew of the sea". (Adrian Room, 1988)

According to myth, the Virgin Mary is said to have spread her blue cloak over a white-blossomed rosemary bush when she was resting, and the flowers turned blue. The shrub then became known as the "Rose of Mary". Rosemary was considered sacred to ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks. (ANZAC Day Commemoration Committee, 1988) Since ancient Roman times the herb was used in burial rites for this reason, to several accounts of funerals in England where mourners traditionally tossed bouquets of rosemary on top of coffins. Rosemary is a herb that has long been associated with remembrance and death. In this respect, rosemary is probably best associated with Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Act 4, Scene 5; “Ophelia in her madness names plants that were known for their capacity to ease pain, particularly inwardly felt pain” – “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance; pray, love, remember.”
Rosemary is at home in Mediterranean dishes and pairs perfectly with lamb, chicken, potatoes, bread and tomatoes. Nigella Lawson has taken the time to create this amazing Shakespearean Rosemary Remembrance Cake, recipe can be found below.


1 eating apple (approx 180g in weight)
2 sprigs fresh rosemary (1 small and 1 long)
1 teaspoon sugar
zest and juice of half a lemon
1 teaspoon butter

225 grams butter
150 grams sugar (plus 1 tablespoon)
3 large eggs
300 grams flour
2 teaspoons baking powder

Peel, core and roughly chop the apple and put into a saucepan with the small sprig of rosemary, the teaspoon of sugar, the lemon zest and juice, and butter. Cover the pan and cook on a low heat for 4-8 minutes until the apple is soft. How long this takes really depends on the variety of apple you're using. Coxes cook the fastest, and are good here.
Leave to cool, and fish out the rosemary sprig when it is cold.
Preheat the oven to 170°C. Line a 450g loaf tin with a loaf liner, or butter and line the bottom with baking parchment.
Put the cooled apple into a food processor and blitz to a pulp. Then add the butter, 150g of sugar, eggs, flour and baking powder and process to a smooth batter.
Spoon and scrape into the loaf tin and smooth the top. Sprinkle the surface with the remaining tablespoon of sugar and then lay the long sprig of rosemary along the centre of the cake. On baking, the rosemary sheds its oil to leave a scented path down the middle of the cake.
Bake the cake for 50 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean, then leave to cool on a rack. Slip the paper-lined cake out of the tin once it is cool.

Works cited
- Room, Adrian (1988). A Dictionary of True Etymologies. Taylor & Francis. p. 150
- "Rosemary" ANZAC Day Commemoration Committee (Qld) Incorporated, 1988
- Nigella Lawson "Feast", 2004