William Shakespeare's Brook

Contemplations

Do you have a small stream or brook nearby where you can observe for your nature journal? Try to identify and list as many plants, trees, flowers that you can. Or, perhaps like John Millias, you can paint a detailed representation of the flora and fauna surrounding the brook.

“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.”

—William Shakespeare

Literary Connection

There is a willow grows aslant a brook,
That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream.
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 them.
There on the pendant boughs her coronet weeds
Clamb’ring to hang, an envious sliver broke,
When down her weedy trophies and herself
Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide
And, mermaid-like, awhile they bore her up;
Which time she chaunted snatches of old tunes,
As one incapable of her own distress, 
Or like a creature native and indued
Unto that element; but long it could not be
Till that her garments, heavy with their drink, 

Pull’d the poor wretch from her melodious lay 
To muddy death.

—Gertrude in Hamlet (4.7.166-187)

There is a willow grows aslant a brook,
That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream.
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 them.
There on the pendant boughs her coronet weeds
Clamb’ring to hang, an envious sliver broke,
When down her weedy trophies and herself
Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide
And, mermaid-like, awhile they bore her up;
Which time she chaunted snatches of old tunes,
As one incapable of her own distress,
Or like a creature native and indued
Unto that element; but long it could not be
Till that her garments, heavy with their drink,
Pull’d the poor wretch from her melodious lay
To muddy death.

—Gertrude in Hamlet (4.7.166-187)

Color marked document (pdf)

Shakespeare writes his plays in a format called blank verse, which is unrhymed iambic pentameter. An iamb is a metric measure that contains one stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable: da dum, da dum, da dum. Pentameter means there are five iambs per line of verse (ten syllables). It’s important to note when Shakespeare moves out of blank verse as there is usually something important going on in the play such as here, where Gertrude is announcing the suicide of Ophelia.

Downloadable PDF