Plants: Shakespeare’s Mulberry: Eco-materialism and “Living on”

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


According to one of the few half-credible eighteenth-century legends about William Shakespeare, the poet planted a mulberry tree on the grounds of his stately Stratford home New place. In early modern culture, old trees served as venues for imagining intergenerational subjectivity. Human vanity, of course, is the chief reason why mulberry trees were brought to England in the first place. Rather than incriminate Shakespeare as a willing participant in the early anthropocene, the mulberry legend foregrounds a humbling biological fact: trees outlive people. The adoration of Shakespeare’s mulberry also coincided with the mid-eighteenth-century reappraisal of nature and natural religion. The temptation to compare Shakespeare’s mulberry with the “True Cross” is irresistible. Michael Drayton’s antiquarianism, his deep history, fosters a perspective not far removed from deep ecology. Mankind’s tampering with ecology has unleashed invasive species, genetically modified organisms, mass extinction, and global climate change.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication The Shakespearean International Yearbook
Subtitle of host publicationSpecial Section, Shakespeare and the Human
EditorsTom Bishop, Alexa Huang, Tiffany Jo Werth
Place of PublicationAbingdon & New York
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9781315264233
ISBN (Print)9781472468482
Publication statusPublished - 28 Sep 2015

Publication series

NameShakespearean International Yearbook
ISSN (Print)1465-5098


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