Explore the Folger Shakespeare Library’s Elizabethan Garden, filled with flowers and herbs mentioned in Shakespeare’s works, or plants popular in his time.
The next docent-led tour of the Elizabethan Garden is Saturday, September 3 – the last day of the Folger’s fascinating exhibition “Fame, Fortune, and Theft: The Shakespeare First Folio”.
The tours, by docents who provide insights into plantings and Elizabethan customs, are given at 10 AM and 11 AM on the first and third Saturday of each month, April through October. So the last tour for this year will be October 15.
The tours, and admission to the Folger, are free.
So smell the roses by any other name. And enjoy the comforting scent of a “bank of Violets”, praised by the melancholic Duke Orsino as “Twelfth Night” opens.
The entire violet family, including pansies a.k.a. “Heart’s Ease”, were used in various potions as a homeopathic anti-depressant.
Alas, poor Ophelia sought violets for that very purpose, “but they withered all when my father died”. So she had to mourn him, and her lost love Hamlet, without self-medicating.
“There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember,” Ophelia says in her mad scene.
An Elizabethan knot garden, creeping thyme, lavender are only a few other attractions of the garden on Capitol Hill.
However, “streak’d gillyvors,
Which some call nature’s bastards: of that kind
Our rustic garden’s barren…”, to quote “The Winter’s Tale”.
The garden’s statues, ranging from whimsical to elegant, evoke characters and themes of eight Shakespearean plays.
That mischievous sprite Puck looks merrily toward the nearby US Capitol Building. “Lord, what fooles these mortals be!” his statue reads, as if Puck speaketh today as well as during “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”.
In addition to docent-led tours, see the Elizabethan Garden on your own year-round, Monday through Saturday, 10 AM to 5 PM, and before most Folger performances.
The Folger’s next exhibit honors the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible: “Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible” from September 24 through January 15.
The display will range from the 1611 version entitled “The Holy Bible, conteyning the Old Testament, and the New”, to the King of rock ‘n roll’s King James Bible that Elvis usually kept in his bedroom at Graceland.
For more info: Folger Shakespeare Library, www.folger.edu, 201 East Capitol Street, SE, Washington, DC, 202-544-7077.