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Terms of Art in Law and Herbals.

3 Terms of art in law and herbals
Daniel AurelianoNewman
In James Joyce’s Ulysses, Stephen Dedalus attributes the genius of Hamlet to
Shakespeare’s ability to transmute personal life into art. The play, Stephen argues,
is the product of a father’s grief over the death of his son Hamnet, combined with
a cuckold’s suspicion that Hamnet was a bastard. Obsessed with thoughts of this
betrayal, Stephen’s Shakespeare is an Othello, finding evidence of Ann Hathaway’s
guilt wherever he looks:“in a rosery of Fetter Lane of Gerard, herbalist, he walks,
greyedauburn. An azured harebell like her veins. Lids of Juno’s eyes, violets… Afar,
in a reek of lust and squalor, hands are laid on whiteness” (2008, 193). In the
garden of his neighbour John Gerard, author of The Herball or Generall Historie
of Plants (1597), Shakespeare sees not roses, bluebells and violets, but troubling
reminders that “paternity may be a legal fiction” (Joyce 2008, 199). Absurd as it
is, Stephen’s theory is at least canny in its ability to link Shakespeare’s persistent
concern with bastards to his use of “terms of art” from two specialized discourses in
which bastardy represents an insistent problem or threat:the law and botany.
These two specialized discourses come together at the end of Hamlet, when the
Prince is mortally wounded by Laertes’ poisoned sword. He must resign himself to
silence “as this fell sergeant, Death, / Is strict in his arrest” (5.2.336– 37).1 These
lines offer no obvious challenge to modern readers, who may easily overlook the
fact that Hamlet dresses death in a legal language. Asergeant is, as the OED
defines it (with support from Hamlet’s line), not only a police or military officer
but also “an officer whose duty is to enforce the judgements of a tribunal” (“ser-
geant”). The legal valence of Hamlet’s metaphor makes these simple lines rather
difficult:if Death enforces a tribunal’s will, what is this tribunal? One possibility
is the poison on the tip of Laertes’ sword, which has been identified as wolfs-
bane or aconite (Tabor 1970, 89; Pennington 2002, 127 note 11). According to
John Gerard, “there is no worse or more speedie venom in the world”, and “if
a man … be wounded with an arrowe or other instrument dipped in the iuice
heereof, [he] doth die within halfe an hower after remedilesse” (1597, EEBO,
Fff1r, Fff1v). Gerard’s account closely resembles Laertes’ description of a poison
“so mortal”that,
but dip a knifeinit,
Where it draws blood no cataplasm sorare,
48 Daniel AurelianoNewman
Collected from all simples that havevirtue
Under the moon, can save the thing from death.
(4.7.142– 45)
Fittingly, Laertes describes his poison in moral terms as an evil resistant to all
“virtue”. Hamlet is preoccupied with a similar poison, though one which acts at
a national and cosmic scale. Apoison resistant to the “virtue” of all medicinal
herbs (“simples”) suggests a Denmark rotten to the core (3.1.44– 45). Though
Ophelia’s “virtues” are proposed by Gertrude as the potential cure for Hamlet’s
“wildness”, Hamlet assures Ophelia that “virtue cannot so [inoculate] our old
stock” (3.1.39, 3.1.116– 17). Claudius’s crime of regicide and fratricide, which
throws Denmark into disorder and “time … out of joint (1.5.188), is replicated in
microcosm in “Aconite or Woolfesbane”. This is, writes John Gerard, a “perni-
cious plant” with “malignant qualities”, whose Latin name “Thora Valdensium
derives from the Greek φθορᾷ or Phthora, “signifying corruption, murther, poison,
or death” (1597, EEBO, Eee8v).
Virtue and corruption, purity and bastardy, nature and art:these are metaphors
and binaries shared by the legal and botanical discourses that come together in
Hamlet’s final speech. Together, then, the “terms of art” Shakespeare borrows from
these two specialized fields offer a powerful tool for exploring his thematic interests
as a dramatist, as well as his linguistic methods as a poet. Like his plays– and like
his wordplay– early modern books designed to clarify legal and herbal “terms of
art” reflect anxieties about a world whose order, purity, and natural integrity seem
increasingly tenuous. As such they also link Shakespeare’s use of specialized terms
to a more radical concern with the function and slipperiness of language itself.
Terms of art were for early modern England what jargon is for academia
today: specialized borrowings from other languages to fill lexical niches unoccu-
pied by English. As we now use aprovechado, ressentiment, and Weltanschauung,
Shakespeare’s contemporaries might have used “confectura” if they were physi-
cians, “azimuth” if they were sailors, and “garanty” if they were lawyers (Bullein
1562, LEME, 97– 2; Tapp 1602, LEME, 271– 14; Rastell 1525, LEME, 836– 113).
And just as we tend to be suspicious of jargon, early English lexicographers seem
wary of their contemporary terms of art. Thomas Blount, perhaps with a sneer,
deems “corbel” a “term of art” derived from French; he ends his definition by
referring the reader to a more English- sounding (but in fact also French- derived)
synonym “bragget” (bracket) – not, according to him, a term of art (1656, LEME,
478– 2146). John Kersey the younger, writing in 1702, takes care to contrast “dif-
ficult, abstruse and uncouth Terms of Art” with “proper and significant English
Words, that are now commonly us’d either in Speech, or in the familiar way of
Writing Letters” (Kersey 1702, LEME, 3; OED “bracket, n.”).
By the early sixteenth-century, English had begun replacing Latin and other
European languages in specialized discourses such as law, medicine, and science.
This shift required the absorption, or “enfranchisment”, of words without equiva-
lents in what Richard Mulcaster calls the “naturall” tongue (1582, EEBO, O2r).
Unlike hard words, which were naturalized enough in English to be understood
Terms of art in law and herbals 49
by educated people, terms of art were known only to specialists in a given field.
As these fields expanded, however, a desire must have emerged to explain or
decipher their rarefied language. By the early eighteenth-century, the need for
books elucidating terms of art was great enough to justify multiple editions of
John Harris’s Lexicon Technicum, a volume of over 900 pages. Its title page boasts
of “explaining not only the terms of art but the arts themselves”. Even John
Kersey admits that terms of art serve a limited purpose. Though “unnecessary, nay
even prejudicial to the endeavours of young Beginners, and unlearned Persons”,
they are useful to practitioners of specialized fields like “Divinity, Ecclesiastical
Affairs, the Statute- Laws of the Nation, History, Geography, Maritime Affairs,
Plants, Gardening, Husbandry, Mechanicks; Handicrafts, Hunting, Fowling,
Fishing, &c” (Kersey 1702, LEME, 3).
The focal fields of this essay, “Statute- Laws” and “Plants”, overlap remarkably
in their concern for law (civic and natural), health (national and bodily), and
legitimacy (purity of origins). Just as important are the significant differences
between the two fields. Both law and botany favor jargon, but their vocabu-
laries are subject to very different social, discursive, and pragmatic forces; they
represent extremes on the linguistic spectrum described by the rubric “terms of
art”. Legal language is necessarily conservative, reliant on precedence as well as
conceptual and therefore semantic normativity. This conservatism explains the
persistence of French and Latin words in twenty-first-century Anglo- American
legal discourse. By contrast, botanical language, even after a certain amount of
standardization following Linnaeus, is various, protean, inefficient, and full of
confusions, redundancies, false homologies, and dialectic idiosyncrasies. Linaria
vulgaris, for example, is also known in North America as butter- and- eggs, com-
mon toadflax, yellow toadflax, toadflax, common linaria, wild snapdragon, eggs-
and- bacon, ramsted, flaxweed, Jacob’s ladder, rabbit- flower and impudent lawyer,
among many other names (Saner et al. 1995, 525). If legal concepts were so lexic-
ally various, the law would be powerless or at least Kafkaesque.
These two fields are also surprisingly alike, however. They share the distinc-
tion of historical priority, being the focus of two texts from the 1520s that ante-
date, as early examples of or as precursors to, what are usually considered the first
English dictionaries (Lancashire 2004, 240). Rastell’s Exposicions of ye Termys of
ye Law of England of about 1523, and the anonymous Banckes’s Herball, published
in 1525, both function as monolingual lexicons designed to explain terms of art.
A quick search of EEBO and LEME reveals a wealth of sixteenth-century books,
often in multiple editions, on both legal terms and plant names. Whatever else
this pattern might mean, it suggests a readership for books devoted to explaining
the language of both the law and botanical science.
More substantively, the law and plants appear to have been privileged as
sources of metaphors by early modern theorists concerned with poetic lan-
guage’s natural purity and vulnerability to corruption. It was widely recognized,
as Derek Attridge argues, that language is vulnerable to bastardization (2004,
17– 21).2 In The Arte of English Poesie (1589), for example, George Puttenham
admits that poetry in “our Normane English” is not necessarily incompatible with
50 Daniel AurelianoNewman
“polysillables euen to sixe and seauen in one word”, as long as these are words
which “we at this day vse in our most ordinarie language”. What is objection-
able, Puttenham continues, is the “corruption” of English “by the peeuish affect-
ation … of clerks and scholers or secretaries” who infect the language with words
“which are not naturall Normans nor yet French, but altered Latines” (1589,
EEBO, O3r). These words, like misused figures in poetry, are “in a sorte of abuses
or rather trespasses in speach, because they passe the ordinary limits of com-
mon vtterance” (1589, EEBO, S2v). Just as herbalists speak of a plant’s “vertuous
operations” (Dodoens 1578, EEBO, A1r), so Puttenham ascribes to rhetorical
figures the potential “double vertue” of “breed[ing]” both aesthetic pleasure and
mental exercise (1589, EEBO, R2r); in both cases, these virtues are vulnerable to
“corruptions”– breaches in conventional, natural, and lawfuluse.
Puttenham’s catalogue of rhetorical figures and poetic ornaments is an attempt
to teach budding poets how to use “the flowers as it were and coulours that a
Poet setteth vpon his language by arte”, without over- or misusing them and
thus “disorder[ing]”, “disfigur[ing]” and “taint[ing]” language’s “bewtie” (1589,
EEBO, 2Llr). As Ian Lancashire and Elisa Tersigni note in their essay in this
volume, these are the same anxieties inherent in contemporary attitudes about
hard words, especially foreign terms, which on one hand supply what is lacking in
the “natural” mother tongue, and on the other cause “corruption of our speech”
(1589, EEBO, 2Llr– 2Llv). Arguing for the former, Puttenham compares a good
poet to “the good gardiner”whose
arte is an ayde and coadiutor to nature, and a furtherer of her actions to
good effect, or peraduenture a meane to supply her wants, by renforcing the
causes wherein shee is impotent and defectiue, as doth the arte of phisicke,
by helping the naturall concoction, retention, distribution, expulsion, and
other vertues, in a weake and vnhealthie bodie.
(1589, EEBO,2Llr)
Arguing elsewhere for the latter, he muses that poetry in natural English might be
better off– and more legitimate without the intrusions of Latin and Greek:“how
well our language serueth to supplie the full signification of them both, Ihaue
thought it no lesse lawfull, yea peraduenture vnder licence of the learned, more
laudable to vse our owne naturall, if they be well chosen, and of proper significa-
tion, than to borrow theirs” (1589, EEBO,S4r).
These passages from The Arte of Poesie demonstrate the extent to which con-
temporary discussions of literary language overlap – rhetorically and ideologically
with the specialized discourses of the law and herbals. These are, of course,
not the only sources of “terms of art” in Shakespeare’s plays, but their ubiquity,
flexibility, and evident relations to questions of health, purity, and order make
them particularly rich. Scholars have long recognized Shakespeare’s extensive
engagements with both the law and botany, so this essay aims primarily to explore
how online tools are facilitating our ability to investigate these terms in their
historical and social context. My discussion of Shakespeare’s terms of art from the
Terms of art in law and herbals 51
law and herbals exploits primarily the hard- word dictionaries gathered in LEME
and the digital archive of EEBO, but also the OED and online repositories like
JSTOR and Literature Online. The approach to finding sources, in other words, is
promiscuous. This is, after all, one of the great advantages (but also dangers) of
conducting research on the Internet, especially given access to a well- subscribed
university library. My searches were not exhaustive, and the resulting analyses
are therefore intended to illustrate the potential for discovery afforded by digital
archives of early modern (as well as current) texts.
Rastell’s Exposicions and other law lexicons
In the early sixteenth-century, English legal language was a motley assortment of
Latin and something called law French – technical French mixed with common
English words, unintelligible to both French and English speakers. The situ-
ation must have become increasingly intolerable, for by the late 1400s, a massive
Anglicization effort was under way. As part of this project, Rastell translated Sir
Thomas Littleton’s fifteenth-century Tenures, and indexed Sir Anthony Fitzherbert’s
Graunde Abridgement, a massive simplification and organizational effort that “assured
the conditions for healthy continued growth” of English law (Graham 1954, 20).3
This work was, however, unwieldy in size and language, so around 1525 he published
The Exposicions of the Termys of the Law of Englond…, a “lytell labour and study to
declare and to expown certeyn obscure & derke termys consernyng the lawis of thys
realme” (Rastell 1525, 4). The book’s innovative format makes Rastell, according to
Ian Lancashire, “our first native lexicographer” (2004, 243).
The Exposicions looks familiar to modern eyes, particularly in its adoption of
alphabetical order for its headwords– an arrangement that was not universal at
the time (Mersky 2004, 21). With distinctive organizational zeal, Rastell borrows
Littleton’s “semi- encyclopaedic” format, dividing his treatise into “various articles
consisting of simple explanations of what a word or a thing meant” (Lancashire
2006b, 10). These qualities make the Exposicions not only “the ultimate ancestor
of every Anglo- American law dictionary and legal encyclopedia”, but the first
English lexicon tout court (Graham 1954, 21– 22). Consider its entry for “bastarde”:
Bastarde is he that is borne of any woman not maryed that hys father ys not
knowen by the order of the law & therfore he ys callyd the chyld of the people/
But by the law of holy chyrch yf one gette a chylde vppon a woman and is
borne out of wedlok & after he mary the same woman than such a child
shalbe seyd mulyer and not basterd/ but by the law of englond it is basterdy
is aledgyd yt shall be tryede by the countrey and nott by the bysshoppe/ but
generall basterdy alledgyd shalbe tryed by the certifycat of the byshop. Also
yf a woman be gret wyth chyld wyth her husband and her husbande dyeth &
she take a nother husband & after the chyld ys borne than the chyld shalbe
sayd the chylde of the furst husband/ But yf she were priuyly wyth chyld at
the tyme of the deth of her furst husband/ then he shalbe sayd the chyld of
the second husband/ Also yf a man take a wyfe whych is gret with chyld with
52 Daniel AurelianoNewman
a nothere that was not her husband and aftere the chyld is borne wythin the
espousels than he shall be sayed the chylde of the husbande though it were
borne but one day after the espousels solemnisat.
(1525, LEME, 836– 38)
This definition is innovative in at least two ways. First: the distinctly modern for-
mat, in which a headword (bastarde) precedes the verb to be and a circumlocutory
explanation. Second: the absence of any mother- tongue translation – a feature
that distinguishes Rastell’s work from contemporary bilingual dictionaries.
There are aspects of Rastell’s entry that are less recognizably lexicograph-
ical. His anecdotal elaborations would seem out of place in a modern lexicon.
Indeed, Rastell’s book anticipates rather than originates the modern lexicon. As
Ian Lancashire notes, Rastell “says nothing about etymology, spelling, and part
of speech”, and he is interested in defining things instead of words (2006b, 12).
The modern distinction between the genres of the monolingual dictionary and
the encyclopaedia had yet to be established, argues John Stone, and so the hybrid
appearance of Rastell’s book is unsurprising (Stone 1999, 122). Still, his entries
are both innovative and related to our current dictionaries and encyclopaedias.
Any literary innovation implies a change in the dynamics between book and
audience, and the innovative formatting of Exposicions suggests a radical impulse.
According to Rastell’s prologue, the book would serve “yong beginers which
intend to be studyentys of the law”, people unfamiliar with but professionally
invested in reading legal language (1525, LEME, 3). But another, more demo-
cratic purpose also seems to motivate Rastell. Like a vernacular Bible, Rastell’s
book appeals to a wide readership, aiming ultimately to protect the law against
the vagaries and whims of individual statesmen:
syth that it is nescessary for euery realme to haue a law resonable and suffi-
cient to gouerne the grete multytude of the peple/ ergo it is necessary that the
gret multitude of the peple haue that knolege of the same law/ to the whiche
they be bound/ ergo it folowyth that the law in euery realme shuld be so pub-
lyshyd declared and wrytton in such wyse that the peple so bound to the same
might sone and shortely come to the knowlege therof/ or ellys such a law:so
kept secretly in the knowlege of a few persones and from the knowledge of the
great multytude may rather be callyd a trape and a net to brynge/ the peple to
vexacion & trobyll than a good order to bringe them to pease & quietnes[.]
(Rastell 1525, LEME,3– 4)
Though Rastell offers no explanation for the innovations of his book, his user-
friendly format (including his index of headwords, helpfully provided before the
explanations themselves) would appear to reflect his educational and democratic
aim, “to declare and to expown certeyn obscure & derke termys consernyng the
lawis of thys realme” (1525, LEME, 4). In other words, he offers his readers enough
linguistic know- how to understand English law, and thus to protect it fromabuse.
Other roughly contemporaneous law lexicons share Rastell’s levelling impulse.
Though John Cowell’s Interpreter: or Book Containing the Signification of Words
Terms of art in law and herbals 53
(1607) looks distinctly more like a modern lexicon than Rastell’s Exposicions, it
shares the earlier book’s goal of helping novices with legal terminology:“my true
ende,” writes Cowell, “is the advauncement of knowledge; and therefore haue
Ipublished this poore worke, not onely to impart the good thereof to those young
ones that want it:but also to drawe from the learned the supply of my defects”
(Cowell 1607, LEME, 5). Also like Rastell’s work, the Interpreter is still occasionally
cited in legal cases (Mersky 2004, 24). Unlike Rastell, Cowell includes etymologies
and, like modern lexicons, cites legal authorities. Witness his entry for “bastardy”,
which “commeth of the French (bastard. i.nothus) Cassanæus de consuetis. Burg.
pa. 1116. saith (bastard) and (filius naturalis)” (1607, LEME, 285– 203).
Cowell’s book incurred the wrath of Parliament, which found some of its legal
explanations suspiciously consistent with the divine rights of kings, and James
Iduly agreed to suppress it. This suppression order reveals just how powerful and
potentially subversive a lexicon could be:in it, Cowell is accused of “ ‘medling
in Matters above his reach’ and misleading ‘divers others’ ” (Mersky 2004, 23).
Paradoxically, however, Cowell’s Interpreter may have been threatening for a
reason difficult to harmonize with his monarchism:like Rastell, his goal seems
to have been to bring the law down to earth, to the people. Demystifying the
language of the law is, as we shall see below, in itself a potentially subversive
levelling act. Before examining this claim, however, Iwish to consider another
intriguing aspect of Cowell’s Interpreter– the fact that his lexicon seems to stray
from the strict bounds of legal discourse. In his prologue, Cowell explains such
apparent irrelevancies:A Lawyer professeth true Philosophy, and therefore should
not be ignorant… of either beastes, foules, or creeping things, nor of the trees from the
Cedar in Lebanon, to the Hyssop that springeth out of the wall” (1607, LEME,7).
How much true philosophy does it take to tell a cedar from a hyssop plant?
Cowell is coy on such points, but his approach to the law and its terms of art sug-
gests that his concerns are far from being limited to the professional. By equating
lawyer with philosopher, he links legal knowledge with an understanding of the
law in a far broader sense, one that places human laws within a larger system of
natural and divine laws. In expecting that lawyers be conversant in other learned
fields, Cowell is therefore not advocating what we would now called a liberal
education; instead, his stance reflects a worldview that saw the legal system as
one manifestation of a universal order that also governs the natural world. John
Rastell opens the prologue to his Exposicions on a similar note:“Lyke wise as the
vniuersall worlde can neuer haue hys continuance but only by the order & law of
Nature whych compellyth euery thing to do hys kind / so there is no multytude of
pepull in no Reame that can contynew in vnyte & pese wythout they be therto
compellyd by some good order & law wherfore a good Law obseruyd” (1525,
Early modern herbals
For Rastell, an understanding of the law helps unite a people, in accordance with
the Aristotelian law which brings like things together; likewise, in a preface to
54 Daniel AurelianoNewman
Gerard’s Herball, George Baker, surgeon to Queen Elizabeth, argues that “man
is naturally inclined and desirous of science” because “all creatures (being vir-
tuously giuen) do striue to perfection, and drawe neere in what he can to the
Creator” (Baker 1597, EEBO, xviii). Gerard’s Herball, by this logic, offers a bodily
equivalent to what the law offers the nation:“that most desired benefit of health”
(Baker 1597, EEBO, xx). Whereas lawyers use the legal system to align the civil
and political state with the state of nature, herbalists used the medicinal prop-
erties of plants to harmonize the corporal state. But contemporary herbals also
served purposes other than the utilitarian; they exemplify a “humanist passion for
all things ancient” that flourished in the early modern period, botany boasting
distinguished classical precedents like Pliny and Cicero (Reeds 1991, 521, 528).
With such antecedents, scholars found incentive to dirty their hands studying
living plants, an activity that, combined with global exploration and new scien-
tific insights, revealed classical botanical works to be imperfect and in need of
revision (Reeds 1991, 540– 41). New herbals sprang up, which in turn spawned
books to explain herbal terms ofart.
The anonymous Banckes’s Herball, published in 1525, is not really a lexicon,
but it nevertheless fulfills a lexicographical purpose, pairing technical plant
nomenclature with common names, along with physical and medicinal descrip-
tions that stress the plant’s virtues and ability to restore the harmonious order of
the body. For example, for the headword Elena campana, we find:“ELena cam-
pana is called Horshelme. The vertue of this herbe is thus. If a man haue wagyng
tethe & he ete of this herbe / they shall fasten agayne. It helpeth a man to make
water yf it be dronken. It delyuereth a woman of a deed chylde. It is good for the
Coughe. It hardeth a mannes wombe. And it is hote and moyst” (1525, LEME,
42– 76). As in Rastell, here we find the headword followed by the verb to be and
a description. Also like some of Rastell’s expositions, some entries are entirely
descriptive, without clarifying the meaning of the name:“Pympernell. This herbe
is good to hele woundes / and to destroye venym / & to hele a postume & sore
eyes” (Banckes 1525, LEME, 42– 168). In this case, probably no exposition was
necessary:pimpernel is a common and well- known plant. Still, Peter Treveris’s
Grete Herball, published the year after Banckes’s Herbal, gives a more lexicograph-
ical entry under “Selfe heale or pympyrnell. Pimpernel is an herbe that groweth
in sandy places, at ye fote of hylles” (OED Pimpernel, n.1). In any case, Banckes’s
Herbal bears the distinction of being among the first monolingual English lexi-
cons; however, because the book lacks extant preliminary materials, the intent of
the innovation is unknown.
Another important English herbalist, William Turner, wrote three books on
plants:Libellus de re herbaria novus (1538), The names of herbes in Greke, Latin,
Englishe Duche and Frenche wyth the commune names that Herbaries and Apotecaries
use (1548), and his masterpiece, A New Herball (1551) (Arber 1990, 121). Turner
was unique among his contemporaries in attempting to formalize English botan-
ical nomenclature (Rydén 1994, 359).4 Like Banckes’s Herbal and Treveris’s herbal,
Turner’s herbal names plants in many languages, but he is distinctive for featuring
variants from English dialects, an inclusion motivated by his desire to reduce the
Terms of art in law and herbals 55
number of deaths and illnesses due to botanical confusion on the part of profes-
sional and amateur herbalists. His first entry, for wormwood, therefore names
the plant in Greek, Latin, Dutch, French, and English, including some regional
English dialects. Turner seems particularly modern, providing short etymo
notes the wormwood, then is “in greke Apsinthion, because no beast will
touch it for bitternes, & in English wormwode, because it killeth wormes”– and
information on taxonomy “There are thre kyndes of Wormwode, ponticum,
marinum, and santonicum” (1551, EEBO, A4r). No wonder Turner is called “the
‘Father of British Botany’ ” (Arber 1990,119).
The law and herbs in Shakespeare
Despite Turner’s achievement, the most influential of all early modern herbals,
and probably the most relevant to Shakespeare’s language, was Gerard’s Herball.5
Gerard was a neighbour and likely acquaintance of Shakespeare, who lived
“almost across the street” from the Barber- Surgeons Company where Gerard
was a member (Gifford and Seidman 1988, 230– 31). There is evidence, indeed,
that Shakespeare may have read the Herball (Tabor 1970, 82). Consider Falstaff’s
eringo in The Merry Wives of Windsor:“Let the sky rain potatoes; let it thunder to
the tune of ‘Green- sleeves’, hail kissing- comfits and snow eringoes” (5.5.18– 20).
LEME is only vaguely helpful in this case. John Garfield writes:“Oringoes, the
roots of Seaholly; it grows in many parts of England, on the Sea- shore, in great
plenty:preserved (as they are to be had at the Comfitmakers) they are excellent
good for such as have Consumptions, or old aged people” (1657, LEME, 489–
1184). This explanation does not really shed much light on Falstaff’s invocations,
his mood here being rather more frisky than ill or weary. John Kersey the younger
says simply “Eringo, a sort of herb” (1702, LEME, 834– 6310), but Gerard gives
us more:eringo is the root of a thistle, Eryngium marinum, mentioned by Pliny. It
is, John Gerard notes, advertised “in shops [as] Eringus” and commonly called “in
English Sea Hollie, Sea Holme, or Sea Huluer”.
The rootes condited or preserued with sugar [cf. Falstaff’s “kissing- comfits”]…
are exceeding good to be giuen vnto old and aged people that are consumed
and withered with age, & which want naturall moisture:it is also good for
other sorts of people that haue no delight or appetite to venery, nourishing
and restoring the aged, and amending the defects of nature in the yoonger.
(1597, EEBO,3R4v)
In other words, Falstaff is asking for something that, as he puts it, “in some
respects, makes a beast a man; in some other, a man a beast”– an aphrodisiac
(5.5.4– 6). The OED entry for “eryngo” identifies it not as the sea holly itself but
as its candied root, ingested to enhance sexual appetite– a small but significant
distinction. The OED entry credits first usage to The Merry Wives of Windsor, in
1598, despite the fact that John Gerard’s earlier (by one year) Herball is credited
with the first use of 78 words, including bulbed, menses, and cauliflower (“cole
56 Daniel AurelianoNewman
florie, or after some colieflorie”). The book also includes the first botanically rec-
ognizable use of asphodel. Despite the recognized authority of Gerard’s Herball and
its likely influence on Shakespeare, when it comes to eringo, the OED prioritizes
poet over scientist. This is probably just one of many such under- valuations of
technical works by theOED.
Shakespeare may have used Gerard’s Herball while he wrote his plays, and his
knowledge of the law was ample enough to merit several papers, essay collec-
tions, and monographs, many of which pay special attention to his knowledge
and use of legal jargon. We have already seen how Hamlet uses what was in the
late sixteenth-century a term of art, arrest. Such legal language was not unusual
for Elizabethan writers, as B.J. Sokol and Mary Sokol have shown. If the law was
mainly the province of specially educated lawyers, tradesmen and property- own-
ers of all kinds were, in “Shakespeare’s litigious age”, necessarily versed in legal
concepts and terminology (Sokol and Sokol 2004, 1). They go on to argue that
internal evidence from the plays and poems suggests that Shakespeare had a good
understanding of the law and its jargon; far from being superficial metaphors, his
legal allusions contain layer upon layer of meaning (2004, 3). External evidence,
Samuel Schoenbaum reports, also shows that Shakespeare was no stranger to
court proceedings, having several times sued or been sued – as had his father
before him (1991, 250– 51, 8). These meetings could only have helped familiarize
Shakespeare with legal terms.
As Isuggested above, terms of art from herbals and books of law terms can do
far more than clarify allusions in the plays, help resolve cruces, and illuminate
crucial events and characters. Because the law and botanical science each reflects,
in its own way, a single universe understood to be ordered and harmonious, the
two specialized discourses offer complementary windows onto the contemporary
worldview. Significantly, the two discourses would have been accessible to vari-
ous audiences, a point to which Iwill return in my conclusion. For this reason,
the remainder of the chapter focuses on the issues of purity and bastardy, health
and corruption, with which Ibegan.
Bastards occupy a place of pride in Shakespeare’s works, though bastardy is
perhaps most essential to the case of Bastard Philip and his contested birthright
in King John (Martin 1965, 258– 59; Sokol and Sokol 2004, 27– 28). Finding his
inheritance threatened, Robert asks incredulously, “Shall then my father’s will
be of no force / To dispossess that child which is not his?” (1.1.130– 31). His fear
of dispossession is not merely an anxiety about lost goods; he senses a change in
his legal status, a fear especially salient in a case of royal descent. Philip, mean-
while, feels dispossessed of title and inheritance. He is a rightful heir and there-
fore is allowed by law to “take away the entrie of any suche persons or their
heires whiche at the tyme of the same discent had good and lawful title of entre
into the saide landes teneme[n] tes or hereditamendtes” (Taverner 1540, EEBO,
L7r). Although contemporary law excluded bastards from inheritance, canon law
and common law differed in how they determined legitimacy and how bastardy
affected inheritance; according to canon law, the issue of adultery could only be a
bastard, but common law seemed designed to argue for a son’s legitimacy as long
Terms of art in law and herbals 57
as the mother was married– even in apparently incontrovertible cases of adultery,
like when the husband was in France at the probable time of conception (Sokol
and Sokol 2004, 24– 25). The case, in short, is a complicatedone.
Its complexities are hinted at in John Rastell’s entry on fe simple, which speaks
volumes on the difficulties involved in transferring possession, even within a
family. Fe sympleis
whan landys or rent or other thyng inherytable ys geuyn to a man & to his
heyrys for euer more & thes wordys his heyrys make the estate of inhery-
taunce for yf land be geuyn to a man for euer yet he hath but an estate for
terme of lyfe / Also yf tenant in fe symple dy hys furst son shalbe his heyr
but yf he haue no son then all his doughters that he hath shalbe hys heyre &
euery one shall have her part by pertycion / but yf he have no son nor dough-
ter then hys next cosen colaterall of the hole blod shalbe hys heyre / Also if
there be fader & son & the father hath a broder & the son purchasyth landys
in fe & dyeth wythout yssue than hys vncle shall haue the land & not the
fader / for that that land may lynyally descend and not ascend.
(1525, LEME, 836– 104)
The problem of legal inheritance plays on the difference between “liniall” and
“collateral discent”, thus explained by John Rastell’s son William in 1579:“Liniall
discent, is when the discent is conueied in the same line of the whole blood,
as grandfather, father, sonne, sonns sonne and soe downeward. Collateral dis-
cent, is out in an other branche from aboue, of the whole bloode, as the graun-
dfathers brother, fathers brother, and so downewarde” (1579, LEME, 151– 119).
John Cowell specifies that “Lineall discent is conueied downeward in a right line
from the Grandfather, to the father, and from the father to the sonne, and from
the sonne to the Nephew, &c. Collaterall discent is springing out of the side of
the whole blood:as Grandfathers brother, fathers brother, &c” (1607, LEME,
285– 613).
The controversy in King John therefore plays on determining how Philip fits
into the categories of lineal or collateral heir, and whether restitution is required.6
In Robert Parsons’s Ansvvere to the fifth part of Reportes lately set forth by Syr
Edvvard Cooke Knight (1606), the attorney calls dispossession a fundamental
affront to an Englishman’s “ancient and vndoubted patrimonie, and birth- right
(though, he hath for some tyme by ignorance, false persuasion, or vaine feare, byn
deceiued, or dispossessed)”; the task of “learned & faithful Cou[n] selours” is thus
“the recouery” or restitution of lawful possession (1606, EEBO, B2r). (Thus the
Machiavellian Bastard Philip in King John plays his own counsel – and wins his
own case.) Responding to the attorney, the Catholic divine agrees on the fun-
damental rights of possession, but quibbles on the definition of inheritance laws
as “ancient”: “I … finde noe memory of any of them extant, before the Conquest
and no written statute law before the raigne of King Henry the third, which was
two hundred years after that againe, & with him doth Iudge Rastall also begin his
collection of laws and statutes, from Magna Charta downwards” (Parsons 1606,
58 Daniel AurelianoNewman
B3r). King John’s surprising judgement in favour of Philip thus appears to be a
Shakespearean anachronism, as the events portrayed in Act 1 precede by sev-
eral years the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215 (Arthur, who died in 1203, is
murdered in Act 4, Scene 3). Philip’s “plea” (1.1.67) and John’s decision in “the
strangest controversy / Come from the country to be judg’d by [him]” (1.1.44– 45)
might not have been, as W.S. Martin claims, “good law” (1965, 258).
If the Bastard Philip seeks restitution, Robert and the King, naturally, wonder
whether they might be the victims of a “forger of fals dedys” one who “for-
gyth a fals dede & makyth yt be publyshyd for to troble the ryght possession &
title of any man” (Rastell 1525, LEME, 836– 108) especially because lineage,
inheritance, and royalty are known to mix in dangerous ways. Robert and Philip
therefore play out before King John a bastardy trial. Indeed, the controversy over
inheritance becomes complicated by subsequent accusations of bastardy and
counteraccusations of libel:Philip thus argues that Robert claims his inheritance,
“I know not why, except to get the land; / But once he slander’d me with bas-
tardy” (1.1.73– 74). John Cowell outlines two such types of bastardy suits, general
and special, which differ depending on questions of inheritance:
Bastardie generall is a certificate from the Bishop of the dioces to the Kings
Iustices…, that the party inquired of, is a bastard or not a bastard vpon some
question of inheritance. Bastardy speciall, is a suite commenced in the Kings
court, against him that calleth another bastard:so termed… because bas-
tardy is the principall and especiall case in triall, and no inheritance con-
tended for.
(1607, LEME, 285– 203)
Given this definition, we might wonder whether lawyers in Shakespeare’s audi-
ence would have found something unusual in the scene from King John, where
aspects of bastardy general (there is a question of inheritance) are mixed with
aspects of bastardy special (the suit is argued in the King’s court). This is an aspect
of English law not considered by W.S. Martin when he concludes (based on the
relative whereabouts of Robert’s father at the time of Philip’s conception):“it is a
hard case, but good law … and Robert must lose his lands” (1965,258).
In any case, the issue the puns are almost inevitable might have been
resolved differently if Philip and Robert shared a father instead of a mother.
Inheritance is simpler in cases of “liniall discent”, when the sons contending for
the land are related by “halfe- bloode”:
when a manne maryeth a wife, and hath issue by her a sonne, and shee
dyeth, and then hee taketh an other woman, and hath by her also a sonne.
Now these two sonnes are after a sort Brothers, or as they are termed, halfe
Brothers, or Brothers of the halfe blodde, that is to say brothers by the
Fathers side because they had both one father, & are both of his bloude and
not brothers at al by the mothers side, nor of blodde ne kinne that way, &
therefore the one of them cannot be heire to other, for hee that wil claime
Terms of art in law and herbals 59
as heire to one by discent, must bee of the whole blodde to him from whome
he claymeth.
(Rastell 1525,129)
If this were so, King John would be a very different play, one which would deny
us the pleasure of the Bastard’s wit. Then again, Edgar and the bastard Edmund
are patrilineal brothers, and the subject of inheritance causes no end of trouble
for their family. There is, also, plenty of the bastard’s wit in King Lear. Edmund’s
immorality seems to be a symptom of his bastardy and, more broadly, a microcosm
of the disorder overtaking Lear’s kingdom. In The Winter’s Tale, a play that is also
concerned with a king’s foolish rejection of a true daughter, a similar preoccupa-
tion with bastardy is displaced from human characters onto nature itself, more
specifically the “bastards” of the botanical world, Perdita’s “streak’d Gilly- vors”
(4.4.82– 83). This passage has elicited, according to Wilbur Sanders in 1987, a
“horticultural litigation that has plagued the annotation of these lines” (quoted
in Turner and Haas 2005, 351). Though early modern herbals cannot solve this
case that may never be resolved, they do enrich its controversy and offer some
useful hypotheses.
The confusion about Perdita’s gilly- vors is twofold. First, the exact botanical
identity of the plant is unclear (Turner and Haas 2005, 351– 53). Second, why
Perdita finds it objectionable has not been explained satisfactorily. Let us begin
with what plant Shakespeare might have had in mind. Ultimately, the species’
identity may prove undecidable, given the regional variation, inconsistency, and
nomenclatural evolution of botanical common names. But critics have suggested
several contenders, the favourite being Dianthus caryophyllus. This possibility has
caused some editors to retain the spelling “gillivor” at the expense of the frequent
emendation “gillyflower”, as gillyflower “is due to an etymological error. The
original word is ‘caryophyllus’, which becomes ‘girofle’ in French, and thence by
metathesis ‘gilofre’, ‘gillyvor’ ” (Wright 1891, 514 note 14).
Another plausible candidate for Perdita’s gilly- vor is suggested in Bobby
Ward’s Contemplation upon Flowers (1999). Ward does not refer to Shakespeare,
but his description of the Mediterranean woody plant of the genus Matthiola is
intriguing.7 Ward calls this plant, introduced into English gardens in the early
1500s, the “stock- gilliflower” or simply “stock” (1999, 342). It seems to have
been well- known to English readers; indeed, the plant serves as a reference
against which to compare other, presumably lesser- known, species in the 1664
Compleat Gardeners Practice by Stephen Blake.8 Ward cites John Palsgrave’s
Lesclarcissement de la Langue Francoyse (1530) as the first English reference to
the “stock- gilliflower”, which calls it “armorie bastarde”, an intriguing name
in the context of this discussion (1999, 343). Like Perdita, Stephen Blake
praises the beauty of the plant, writing, “This Flower hath the preheminency
of a Garden for ority of colour, delicious smell, and for continuance of flower-
ing…. [T] hey cast such a pleasant sight afar off or nigh, and are such a pleasant
ornament, as cannot be better expressed than they express themselves” (1664,
EEBO, I4r). On the bastard status of the plant, Blake differentiates the single- or
60 Daniel AurelianoNewman
double- flowered stock- gillyflowers (referring to the mutation that gives certain
hybrids twice the usual number of petals and sepals):
what is meant by a double stock, whether the double and single are two dis-
tinct kinds or no? I answer, they are, and they are not, for the double is made
by art of nature, the single comes naturally: now you must understand there
is two sorts of nature, the one voluntary, the other of industry, for naturally
every creature liveth, but by nature and industry every creature cometh to
the fulness of perfection, and so man by nature and industry cometh to the
fulness of wisdome, whereas naturally he is a fool.
(1664, EEBO, I4r)
Blake’s discussion of art versus nature recalls, tantalizingly, Polixenes’ attempt to
allay Perdita’s anxiety about gillyvors, more specifically her worry that, “There
is an art which in their [plants] piedness shares / With great creating Nature”
(4.4.87– 88). Polixenes responds,
Yet Nature is made better by nomean
But Nature makes that mean; so over thatart
Which you say adds to Nature, isanArt
That Nature makes. You see, sweet maid, wemarry
A gentler scion, to the wildeststock,
And make conceive a bark of baserkind
By bud of nobler race. This isanart
Which does mend Nature– change it rather;but
The art itself is Nature.
(4.4.89– 97)9
We must not be too quick to conclude, based on these similarities, that Blake and
Shakespeare are referring to the same plant. After all, the early modern conceit
of art working and modifying nature’s materials is hardly limited to the breeding
of stock- gillyflowers.10 John Parkinson refers to another species, Leucoium sp.,
as “stocke- gilloflowers”. Parkinson’s account of these flowers matches Perdita’s
description of “pidenesse”:
There is great variety in the colours of the flowers… There are againe of all
these colours, mixed very variably, as white mixed with small or great spot-
tes, strakes or lines of pure or bright red, or darke red, and white with purple
spottes and lines; and of eyther of them whose flowers are almost halfe white,
and halfe red, or halfe white, and halfe purple.
(1629, EEBO,Y4v)
Parkinson distinguishes between stock gillyflowers and “cloue gilloflowers”, a type
of carnation, though Blake differentiates “Cornation Gilli- flowers” from “Clove
Gilli- flowers” (1629, EEBO, Cc3v; 1664, EEBO, C4v, E2r). The clove gilly-
flower is favoured by critics who explain Perdita’s discomfort with gilly- vors as
Terms of art in law and herbals 61
a reaction to the sexually suggestive shape of the flowers; the New Variorum, for
example, cites Furness’s “finding in  (1631…) that the ‘lappe [pudendum]
or priuity may be likened to the great Cloue Gillyflower when it is moderately
blown’ ” (Turner and Haas 2005, 353). These critics identify the species as the
carnation Dianthus, which is, like the stock- gillyflower, variable in colour though
apparently pink or red (Parkinson 1629, EEBO, Cc3v– Cc4v) rather than purple –
and therefore unlikely to be called pied.
Looking to John Gerard, we find a multilingual list of names for “Wall- floures,
or yellow Stocke Gillo- floures”, including “in Latine Viola lutea, and Leucoium
luteum” (1597, EEBO, Ff4v– Ff5r). These names would certainly confuse a con-
temporary botanist, who would recognize Viola as the genus name of violets, and
Leucojum as a genus of lilies. Gerard’s illustrations of gillyflowers, however, show
narrow- leaved plants with symmetrical four- petal flowers, easily recognizable as a
member of the mustard family, Brassicaceae. Triangulating with the French name
giroflée, we find this identification confirmed:giroflée has yellow flowers and is
now known as Erysimum cheiri.11
But Perdita’s gilly- vors are not yellow but pied. Thus we return to Matthiola,
which is like the giroflée a member of the Brassicaceae, though its flowers tend
to be whitish- pink to deep purple, with extensive mixtures possible in hybrid
varieties. These might correspond to what Randle Holme describes in his 1688
Academy of Armory as “Gilliflowers mixed purple and white”, also known as
“Sops in Wine”, “Admiral of Spain”, “Purple Imperial”, and “Purple Paragon”
(1688, EEBO, I4v).12 This corresponds nicely with the pure white, “light purple
and deep purple” coloration that Margaret Lesley and Howard Frost find mixed
variously among hybrids of Matthiola incana (1927, 451). The OED differentiates
between “stock- gillyflower” (Matthiola incana) and “clove gillyflower”, quoting
“Purple and blew stock- gelefloures” from William Turner’s 1548 Names of Herbes.
Gerard writes specifically of the attractive white and purple colour patterns of
hybrids “that beare double flowers, which are of diuers colours, greatly esteemed
for the beautie of their flowers, and pleasant sweete smell” (1597, EEBO,Aa3r).
It is tempting, given these references, to conclude that Perdita’s gilly- vors are
stock- gillyflowers. But we must avoid, in such vexed puzzles, unwarranted cer-
tainty. Still, let us assume, for argument’s sake that Matthiola sp. is the plant in
question; we can thus move on to the second source of confusion about Perdita’s
flowers– the reason she finds them objectionable. If the gilly- vors are Matthiola,
then a mixture of contemporary and modern scientific knowledge combine to
suggest an intriguing and plausible solution. Most critics explain Perdita’s disap-
proval as discomfort with their artificial or unnatural breeding, i.e., reproduction
facilitated by gardeners (Gessert 1996, 293). More specific to stock- gillyflowers,
however, is the fact that their fertility is inversely proportional to their degree
of hybridity (Ecker, Barzilay, and Osherenko 1994, 133). This relation seems
to have been recognized by early modern herbalists, who found that the hybrid
“double floures” could not reproduce themselves unaided, without grafting,
selective pruning, and careful transplanting. Stephen Blake outlines the many
steps required to keep the double flowers from “degenerat[ing]” to single flowers;
62 Daniel AurelianoNewman
indeed, there is much “industry in the propagation of Gilliflowers, wherein there
is some art in doubling and redoubling of them” (1664, EEBO, I4v, I4r). Could
it be that Perdita objects not to the unnaturalness of hybrid flowers per se, but
rather to the loss of fecundity resulting from hybridity? The flowers’ artificially
bred piedness would therefore be a colourful reminder of the effort needed to
replenish each new generation. It seems appropriate that the flower’s bastardy
would strike a nerve with an audience aware that the girl has been cast out from
her kingdom for her alleged status as a bastard (2.2.74). For her, furthermore, the
prospect of entering with Florizel into a hybrid union (for she does not know she
too is of royal blood) may be frightening if she cannot be sure of its fertility, of
being able to perpetuate her lover’s royal lineage.
It would be nice to settle the question of the gilly- vors’ identity, but we do
not need certainty on this score to recognize the research benefits offered by
such resources as LEME and EEBO. We may not be much closer to identifying
the species, but Iwould submit that the survey of contemporary books devoted
to terms of art does help us see the flowers as part of a larger framework that
encompasses the political order, natural law, and the vexed notions of legitimacy
and bastardy.
Why would lexicographers like John Rastell and William Turner set out to elu-
cidate terms of art? And why would Shakespeare use them? Some answers are
offered in other chapters in this volume, but it seems that for the playwright
as well as for the authors of lexicographical books, presenting and demystifying
obscure language entailed political, spiritual, and even cosmological responsibil-
ity. Ultimately, John Rastell’s political concern with educating his readers on
terms of art reflects his belief that state law should reflect the unity and order of
natural law. He begins his prologuethus:
Lyke wise as the vniuersall worlde can neuer haue hys continuance but only
by the order & law of Nature whych compellyth euery thing to do hys kind /
so there is no multytude of pepull in no Reame that can contynew in vnyte
& pese wythout they be therto compellyd by some good order & law wher-
fore a good Law obseruyd.
(1525, LEME,3)
This is a medieval ideal, but it remains influential in the early modern period.
Believing in such harmony, Rastell is quite of his time. Many of his expositions
reveal a profound faith in hierarchies, as in the case of the term errour:
Errour is a wryte & it lyeth where a false iugement is gyuen in the comen
place or before the iustyce in assise or before the iustice of oyer determyner
or beefore the Mayere and the shyryffis of london / or in other court of record
for to make the record and proces to come before the iustyce of the kyngys
Terms of art in law and herbals 63
bench and yf ther errour be found yt shalbe reuersyd / but yf a fals iugement
be gyuen in the kyngys bench than it shalbe reuersyd by the parlyament
also yf a false iugement be geuyn in court that ys not of record as in cownte
hundred or court baron then the parte shall haue a writ of fals iugement for
to make the record to come before the iustyce of the comen place / Also yf
errour be found in the eschequer it shalbe redressyd by the chauncellour &
(1525, LEME,40)
Despite Rastell’s faith in hierarchies, there is something paradoxical in trying
to uphold the established order by making a specialized discourse more access-
ible. One might say it is a Protestant strategy, anticipating Rastell’s conversion to
Protestantism in 1533 (Dillon2005).
For William Turner, who was Protestant, the lexicographical impulse also
seems to be democratic and utilitarian. In his prologue to The New Herball,
Turner admits that some will accuse him of divulging specialized knowledge to
the common people:“by occasion of this boke, euery man, nay euery old wyfe
will presume not without the mordre of many, to practise Physick.” But, he then
argues, the dangers of excluding non- professionals is far more dangerous:
when as if the potecari for lack of knowledge of the latin tong, is ignorant in
herbes:and putteth ether many a good ma[n] by ignorance in ieopardy of his
life, or marreth good medicines to the great dishonestie both of the Phisician
and of Goddes worthy creatures, the herbes and the medicines:when as by
havyng an herball in English all these euelles myght be auoyded:whether
were it better, that many men wuld be killed, or the herbal wuld be set out in
English. The same reason might also be made of surgeons.
(1597, EEBO,A3v)
John Gerard also refers to the dangers of keeping the common people in ignor-
ance of herbal poisons; in his discussion of wolfsbane he mentions an appar-
ently well- known case of mass poisoning in “Anwarp”. “The force and facultie
of Woolfes bane,” he writes, “is deadly to both man and all kinds of beasts…
and is as yet fresh in memorie by an euident experiment, but most lamentable,
for when the herbes heereof were by certaine ignorant persons serued vp in sal-
lades, all that did eat thereof, were presently taken with most cruell symptomes,
and so died” (1597, EEBO, Fff4v). Asimilar democratic intention is advertised
on the title page of Macer’s Herbal (1552), which pertains to be “Translated out
of laten, in to Englysshe, which shewynge theyr operacyons [and] vertues, set in
the margent of this boke, to the entent you myght knowe theyr vertues” (Macer
1552). Like Gerard, Turner aims through his book to prevent such accidents
and to disseminate knowledge that will help “al the sicke folke of thys Realme”,
though his exhaustive taxonomical and bio- geographical surveys suggest a con-
comitant enthusiasm for the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake (quoted in
Rydén 1994,356).
64 Daniel AurelianoNewman
Obviously, the methods associated with legal and botanical terms of art neces-
sarily differ. Whereas Rastell writes essentially modern dictionary or encyclo-
paedia entries for individual hard words, Turner clarifies plant nomenclatures
that are tangled and motley but not inherently difficult. It is conceivable that
unlike legal terms, botanical words were quite generally known. After all, every-
day contact with wild and cultivated plants would have assured working botan-
ical knowledge among many people, educated and uneducated alike. Therefore,
Turner and the other herbalists set out to standardize and harmonize the sheer
variety of plant names, whose confusion could lead to accidental poisoning and
other such medical mishaps. But more profound similarities link the work of
Rastell, Cowell, Turner, Gerard, and others:they see the demystification of dif-
ficult words as essential to the wellbeing of the people.
The lawyers watching plays at the Inns of Court undoubtedly understood and
perhaps relished Shakespeare’s legal savvy, whereas less educated viewers might
have been perplexed (Martin 1965, 259). But then every community has its
terms of art, and the urban, higher- class audience members may have missed
herbal allusions easily caught by those who relied on herbs from their own gar-
dens for cooking and home remedies. It was part of Shakespeare’s genius– like
James Joyce’s several centuries later– to incorporate nearly everybody’s jargon
into hisart.
1 This chapter uses The Riverside Shakespeare for all citations from Shakespeare’scanon.
2 My discussion of Puttenham is profoundly indebted to Attridge’s excellent discussion of
the Derridean supplément.
3 Nearly a century later after Rastell, John Cowell would recognize the need to further
simplify and harmonize English law:“my intent is, by collating the cases of both lawes,
to shewe, that they both be raised of one foundation, and differ more in language and
termes then in substance, and therefore were they reduced to one methode (as they eas-
ily might) to be attained (in a maner) with all one paines” (1607, LEME,6).
4 Mats Rydén has published several other studies on William Turner, as well as on
Shakespeare’s botanical references. His work is especially good on the convergence of
natural history and linguistics among early modern herbalists.
5 Gerard’s Herball is not a lexicon, but it includes among its descriptions multilingual
translations of each plant’s name. Nicholas Culpeper’s 1652 The English Physician ful-
fills a clearly lexicographical function in addition to its primary medical role. Its entry
for “Beech- Tree”, for example, defines both by description and by comparison before
moving on to medicinal properties of the tree: “In treating of this Tree, you must
understand that Imean the great Mast Beech; which is by way of distinction from that
other smal rough sort, called in Sussex, the small Beech; but in Essex, Hornbeam. Isup-
pose it needless to describe it, being already so wel known to my Countrymen. Place. It
groweth in Woods amongst Oaks, and other Trees, and in Parks, Forrests, and Chases,
to feed Deer; and in other places to fatten Swine. Time. It bloometh in the end of April,
or begining of May for the most part, and the Fruit is ripe in September” (1652, LEME,
429– 28).
Terms of art in law and herbals 65
6 John Cowell explains “Restitution” as “a yeelding vp againe of any thing vnlawfully
taken from another. It is vsed in the common law, most notoriously for the setting him
in possession of lands or tenements” (1607, LEME, 285– 1742).
7 The OED lists Matthiola incana among the many species called “gillyflower” (OED
gillyflower, n. 2).
8 Blake uses the stock as a standard for flower shape and size, and seed type (1664, EEBO,
C3r, F4v, L1v, L3v). Gerard regularly does the same in his Herball (1597, EEBO, R5r,
R6r, R7v,Dd8v).
9 Cf. Heywood’s The fayre mayde of the Exchange:
Some maides will chuse the Gilliflower, some theRose,
Because their sweet cents do delight thenose,
But very fooles they are in my opinion,
The very worst being drawen by cunningart,
Seemes in the eye as pleasant to theheart…
For what is he louing a thing inheart,
Loues not the counterfeit, though made by art? (1607, EEBO, B3r)
10 For contemporary and more modern discussions, see the New Variorum Winter’s Tale,
which qualifies the conceit as “a famous commonplace” (Turner and Haas 2005, 351,
355– 57).
11 There are various resources for more information on Erysium cheiri (“Erysimum cheiri
(L.) Crantz”), but for more information on its geographical range please consult the
Natural Resources Conservation Service’s webpage on the plant: java/
12 In The Plant- Lore and Garden- Craft of Shakespeare, Henry Nicholson Ellacombe notes
that the poet Edmund Spenser makes such as reference in his Shepherd’s Calendar:“Bring
coronations and sops- in- wine / worn of paramours” (1884,47).
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