Gems of Shakespeare
In honor of William Shakespeare’s birthday, which is celebrated on April 23rd (coincidentally this is also the anniversary of his death), I thought it might be fun to share some of my favorite quotes from his works that reference crystals and precious stones. Shakespeare used the colors, shapes, and qualities of gemstones to paint beautiful pictures in the minds of his audience. For example, pearls were used to describe teardrops and diamonds to refer to the queen’s bright blue eyes in King Lear: “What guests were in her eyes; which parted thence, As pearls from diamonds dropp'd.” The Bard of Avon even used precious stones as insults, such as when in Twelfth Night, Feste tells Orsino, “For thy mind is a very opal,” criticizing Orsino’s tendency to change his mind as an opal changes color.
A Lover’s Compaint is a narrative sonnet adorned with gem references throughout, in which an older man (presumably a shepherd and former ladies’ man) comforts a distraught, heartbroken maid, who was abandoned by her lover. He shows her gifts that women had given him to win his favor: “Look here, what tributes wounded fancies sent me, Of paled pearls and rubies red as blood…” And the following verses of the same poem are gridded with images of gemstones as the older man continues to describe gifts from the women who once wooed him and the varied effects they had on him:
“With the annexions of fair gems enrich'd, And deep-brain'd sonnets that did amplify Each stone's dear nature, worth, and quality.
''The diamond,--why, 'twas beautiful and hard, Whereto his invised properties did tend; The deep-green emerald, in whose fresh regard Weak sights their sickly radiance do amend; The heaven-hued sapphire and the opal blend With objects manifold: each several stone, With wit well blazon'd, smiled or made some moan.”
The man extends these gifts to the maid as an offer of love, like a sacrifice at an altar, as she has opened his heart in compassion.
Shakespeare even gives the directive, “Go. Clear thy crystals,” through the character Pistol in Henry V, which amuses me greatly. These are a few of my favorite references to crystals and gemstones in Shakespeare’s works, although you can also find chrysolite, amber, coral, jet, turquoise, agate, carbuncle, and fossil as descriptors ornamenting the imagery painted in the Bard’s rich scenes. If you’re interested in exploring this topic further, here is a link to an excellent compilation: https://bit.ly/38VNwB5
Connect with me at youtube.com/c/urbanempath and Instagram.com/urban_empath and find out more about my intuitive and healing work at urbanempath.com/services. I hope you found this topic fun and interesting.