Shakespeare Roses

roses, shakespeare flowers, shakespeare quotes, shakespeare garden

"Of all flowers
Methinks a rose is best." 

- Two Noble Kinsmen, Act II, Scene II

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

- Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene II

“O rose of May
Dear maid, kind sister, sweet Ophelia.”

- Hamlet, Act IV, Scene V

“With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine:
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
Lull'd in these flowers with dances and delight.”

- A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act II, Scene I

“Come, sit thee down upon this flowery bed,
Why I thy amiable cheeks do coy
And stick musk roses in thy sleek smooth head
And kiss thy fair large ears, my gentle joy.”

- A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act IV, Scene I

“The rose looks fair, but fairer we it deem
For that sweet odour which doth in it live.”

Sonnet 54

Shakespeare refers to the Rose over 70 times; it is the most mentioned flower throughout his work. The varieties of Rose he mentions include the Musk Rose (Rosa moschata), the Damask Rose (Rosa damascena), the Eglantine or Sweet Briar (Rosa rubiginosa), the Provence or Cabbage Rose (Rosa centifolia) and the Wild Dog Rose (Rosa canina).

Musk Rose (Rosa moschata) in Shakespeare
Musk Rose (Rosa moschata)
Damask Rose (Rosa damascena) in Shakespeare
Damask Rose (Rosa damascena)
Eglantine or Sweet Briar (Rosa rubiginosa) in Shakespeare
Eglantine or Sweet Briar (Rosa rubiginosa)
Provence or Cabbage Rose (Rosa centifolia) in Shakespeare
Provence or Cabbage Rose (Rosa centifolia)
Wild Dog Rose (Rosa canina) in Shakespeare
Wild Dog Rose (Rosa canina)

John Gerard wrote “the rose doth deserve the cheefest and most principle place among all flowers whatsoever, being not only esteemed for his beauties, vertues and his fragrant and odorous smell, but also because it is the honore and ornament of our English sceptre.”

The Rose has been the national emblem of England since The War of the Roses (1455-1485,) when the royal houses of York and Lancaster fought for the crown. The Red Rose was the emblem of the House of Lancaster and the White Rose was the emblem of the House of York. Shakespeare creates an imaginary scene in Henry VI Part I where the opposing parties chose sides.


Let him that is a true born gentleman
And stands upon the honour of his birth
If he suppose that I have pleaded truth
From off this briar pluck a white rose.


Let him that is no coward and no flatterer,
But dare maintain the party of the truth,
Pluck a red rose from off this thorn with me.

- Henry VI Part I, Act II, Scene IV

The White Rose of York is thought to be either the Rosa alba or the Rosa canina and the Red Rose of Lancaster is thought to be the Rosa gallica. The two houses were finally united with the marriage of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York and the two flowers were joined to form the Tudor Rose.

tudor rose, shakespeare flowers, shakespeare garden
The Tudor Rose

The Rose was considered to be the queen of all flowers and was used to represent beauty and love. However Shakespeare also used the Rose to convey the contrary nature of life, to say that like the Rose with its thorns, in life there is pleasure mixed with pain.

"Is love a tender thing? It is too rough,
Too rude, too boisterous, and it pricks like Thorn."

- Romeo and Juliet, Act I, Scene IV

“Roses have thorns and silver fountain mud
And loathsome canker lives in sweetest bud.”

Sonnet 35

"For women are as Roses, whose fair flower
Being once display'd doth fall that very hour."

- Twelfth Night, Act II, Scene IV

A number of varieties of Rose have been cultivated that are inspired by Shakespeare, they include the Glamis Castle Rose (Macbeth), the Scepter'd Isle Rose (Richard II), the Fair Bianca Rose (The Taming of the Shrew) the Othello Rose (Othello), the Prospero Rose (The Tempest), the Gentle Hermione (The Winter's Tale) and the William Shakespeare Rose.