Monthly Archives: April 2016

Shakespeare’s Gardens

Jackie Bennett: Shakespeare’s Gardens. Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Talk

A talk accompanying an informative and well-illustrated book about the gardens that William Shakespeare knew as a boy and tended as a man, and the plants that Shakespeare knew and wrote about in 17th century England. As Bennett says, more than four centuries after Shakespeare lived, whenever we think of thyme, violets or roses, we more often than not still remember a quote from one of his 39 plays and 154 sonnets.

More information about Shakespeare’s Gardens can be found at

Shakespeare’s Gardens 2017-11-01T18:48:40+00:00

Unravelling the mystery of Ophelia’s orchids

Diana and I have just finished reading a fascinating article in Country Life magazine about the identification of plants in Shakespeare’s texts – or rather, misidentification. Mark Griffiths’ article Unravelling the mystery of Ophelia’s orchids sheds new light on the ‘long purples’ Ophelia gathers from the brook shortly before she drowns.


There with fantastic garlands did she come

Of crowflowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples,

That liberal shepherds give a grosser name,

But our cold maids do “dead men’s fingers” call


Gertrude, Hamlet IV.VII.164-8


While ‘long purples’ has long been assumed to be a plant name from the time, Griffiths found no record of the name from the period. Instead, he believes long purples to be a non-specific description – ‘those long purple things’ – whilst it is ‘dead men’s fingers’ that Gertrude regards as the plant’s name in the scene.

Griffiths believes the plant in question to be an orchid, although not Orchis mascula, as others have suggested. As he explains, in Shakespeare’s day the shape of an orchid tuber was very often reflected in its name, ‘thus great dogs stones had ovoid tubers and marish handed satyrion had dactyloid tubers.’ In The Herball John Gerrard describes orchids with dactyloid tubers – now comprising the Dactylorhiza genus – as being ‘fashioned like the hand and fingers of a man’. In other words, like dead men’s fingers.

As for the ‘grosser name’ used by ‘liberal shepherds,’ Griffiths explains that whilst tuber shape underpinned the accepted name for tuberous orchids ‘at the same time unqualified testicular names were generally and informally used’ to describe them. Citing a typeset error in Gertrude’s speech in the second quarto edition of Hamlet (1604 and 1605) he argues that the compositors misinterpreted a note Shakespeare made to himself (‘cull’) as being part of the intended text (‘cull-cold maids’) instead of the beginnings of the ‘grosser name’ for the orchids, ‘cullions’. Used by Shakespeare in other plays, ‘cullions’ signified testicles and was used as a vulgar term of abuse.

Today grouped together in the Dactylorhiza genus these orchids have spikes of pretty purple flowers atop of long flower stems. They hail from moist, marshy habitats and there are a number of species native to Britain and Denmark, including Dactylorhiza incarnata, D. majalis, D. praetermissa and D. purpurella. Griffiths believes one of these is Shakespeare’s ‘long purples’.

Griffiths, Mark. “Unravelling the mystery of Ophelia’s orchids.” Country Life April 20 2016: 70-71. Print.

Unravelling the mystery of Ophelia’s orchids 2017-11-02T18:17:30+00:00

British Moroccan Society in Tangier and Tetuan

On 19-23 April Diana joined 20 other members of the British Moroccan Society for a very special excursion to Tangier and Tetuan. The excursion comprised:

Visits to 8 inspirational charities and organisations, including


Le Foyer des Jeunes Diabétiques de Tanger:

Le Foyer des Jeunes Diabetiques de Tanger


Taha Husein School for blind & partially sighted children in Tetuan:

Haha Husein School for Blind and Partially-Sighted Children


The BMS members also watched a thrilling show at the Darna Theatre:

Darna Theatre


They had a private tour of Palais Moulay Hafid and it’s beautiful gardens:

The gardens of Palais Moulay Hafid


They visited five private homes and gardens, including Umberto Pasti’s (pictured):

Umberto Pasti's garden Umberto Pasti's garden


And they attended talks by two authors at the British University campus in Tangier. What an excursion! More information about the Tangier and Tetuan excursion can be found on the events section of the BMS website

British Moroccan Society in Tangier and Tetuan 2017-11-01T17:18:03+00:00

A London Sonnet Walk

Sonnet Walk, East London

You might think I’d had enough of Shakespeare after yesterday’s antics, but today I headed into London to take part in one of The Globe’s famous Sonnet Walks. The brainchild of actor Mark Rylance the Sonnet Walks – walking tours of London brought to life by actors – have taken place annually in April for over 20 years. This year as part of the Shakespeare 400 celebrations there was an east walk to The Globe in addition to the usual west walk. I joined my group at St. Leonard’s Church in Shoreditch where I was presented with a ravishing red rose and taken on a walk through Shakespearean London, visiting many of the sites Shakespeare himself would have frequented and the sites of his original London theatres. You can see my photos of the Sonnet Walk on the rhiannon@reep Facebook page

A London Sonnet Walk 2017-11-02T18:10:59+00:00

Shakespeare 400

Today was of course the much anticipated Shakespeare 400, the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare (and also his 452nd birthday!) so I headed to his hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon to join in with the festivities. First, I joined the crowds outside the Town Hall to watch the annual birthday parade, which began with the tolling of a funeral bell as Shakespeare’s funeral bier processed through the streets, accompanied by masked students from King Edward VI School. Sprigs of rosemary were given out to the audience before the parade so that when the bier passed they could be thrown down before it, thus creating a ‘path of remembrance’ to his grave.

‘Deathday’ commemorations became birthday jubilations when the onlookers donned Shakespeare masks to give the great man three cheers, and a New Orleans jazz band brought a livelier note to the proceedings. Interestingly there are actually several Stratfords’ dotted around the world but today they all united in Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon as representatives from all of the ‘Stratfords of the World’ joined in the big birthday parade. As part of the 400 celebration the parade this year ended at Holy Trinity Church, where paraders placed their bouquets and posies of wildflowers at Shakespeare’s Grave – a tradition begun by King Edward VI in honour of their former pupil.

During the day, there were lots of events and activities for families, including free street performances by the Royal Shakespeare Company, acting workshops and sonnet boat trips along the river, whilst in the evening fireworks brought the celebrations to a spectacular close. You can see my photos of the events in Stratford-upon-Avon on the rhiannon@reep Facebook page.

Shakespeare 400 2017-11-01T19:01:02+00:00

Shakespeare: World’s Elsewhere

Last night, I attended a fascinating talk at the British Library by Andrew Dickson, author of Worlds Elsewhere: Journey’s Around Shakespeare’s Globe. In Worlds Elsewhere, Dickson explores Shakespeare’s popularity around the globe, beginning with the alleged performances of Hamlet and Richard II on board a ship off the coast of West Africa in 1607-08.

In his talk, Dickson spoke of the groups of English players which toured Europe during Shakespeare’s lifetime, taking his works with them. Their performances were seldom of complete plays, but rather amalgams of scenes and extracts from a range of Shakespeare’s works. Over the passage of time these performances moved further and further away from the original manuscripts, and would include languages and music from the countries in which they were performed.

What a wonderful reminder to me of the importance of REEP’s Shore to Shore Project! Celebrating links between Morocco and England in the 17th century and contemporary times, Shore to Shore uses Shakespeare’s works in much the same way to engage with and inspire young people.

I was also very inspired by Dickson’s discussion of Shakespeare’s geography and sense of location, which he described as ‘imaginary’ or ‘transient’: the places Shakespeare describes in his works appear to be an amalgam of various places he may have read about but never visited for himself and so there is a ‘definite fluidity’ to them. This, said Dickson, is the major reason for the global popularity of his work, as his roots are as entwined in other cultures as they are in our own.


More information about World’s Elsewhere: Journeys Around Shakespeare’s Globe can be found at


Shakespeare: World’s Elsewhere 2017-11-01T18:23:34+00:00

Shakespeare in Ten Acts

Today I visited Shakespeare in Ten Acts, an excellent new exhibition which opened last week at the British Library in London. Celebrating the four hundredth anniversary of William Shakespeare’s the exhibition explores the performance of Shakespeare’s texts from the late 16th century to modern times. Using a narrative of ten ground-breaking performances Shakespeare in Ten Acts shows how Shakespeare’s works have been ‘transformed and translated, faked and forged, revised, recast and redesigned’ by each generation and by so many different cultures.


Shakespeare in Ten Acts

15 April – 6 September 2016

British Library

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REEP inspires at Beni Mellal

It’s always good to receive feedback about our projects in Britain and Morocco and the REEP team were thrilled by the positive comments received from students and staff at Sultan Moulay Slimane University about the presentation given by Diana, Rhiannon and Sarah last month. Rhiannon was particularly pleased by this student’s reaction to her presentation about the Anglo Moroccan Shakespeare Garden project:

‘Do you know, during the Shakespeare conference I felt a bit bored from time to time, but when you started your powerpoint presentation about Shakespeare gardens I woke up and cleaned my glasses! This was something I cared about, these works of gardening and decoration are something I love.’

In fact, the student in question, Abdelilah Elmalkaoui, was so inspired by the talk that he has applied to be the very first Moroccan scholar for the new REEP McLaren Scholarship!

REEP inspires at Beni Mellal 2017-11-01T17:50:29+00:00


It’s well known that Shakespeare contributed over 1700 new words to the English language but did you know that honorificabilitudinitatibus is the longest one? Said by Costard, the clown, in Love’s Labour’s Lost, honorificabilitudinitatibus is derived from the Medieval Latin honorificabilitudinitas and means ‘honourableness’.

Sadly the word had fallen into abeyance until it was spoken by Sir Ian McKellen during a recent talk on Shakespeare at the British Film Institute last week. Now there are calls to return it to favour and there’s speculation that it may even feature in an upcoming Prime Minister’s Questions.

Honorificabilitudinitatibus 2017-11-01T17:46:08+00:00

REEP McLAREN Scholarship Update

The REEP team have been making good progress on the new REEP McLaren Scholarship, the first round of which is due to take place in England in June and July 2016. One young Moroccan and one young Spanish horticulturist will join REEP Development Officer, Rhiannon, in an exciting programme of work experience placements and garden visits over a 3-week period. If you’re interested to learn more, check out our latest leaflets, available in English, French and Spanish. You can download them below.


French – REEP McLaren Scholarship GB 2016

English – REEP McLaren Scholarship GB 2016

Spanish – REEP McLaren Scholarship GB 2016

REEP McLAREN Scholarship Update 2017-11-01T17:42:53+00:00