Plant-Lore

Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Yelowe boddles

Posted on by royvickery |

According to The Times of 8 June 2011, researchers at Oxford University have suggested that the death of Ophelia in Shakespeare’s Hamlet bears ‘striking similarities’ to the 116drowning of Jane Shaxspere, in 1568. At her inquest in Droitwich, it was recorded that she died ‘when she fell into a small channel at Upton Mill Pond, near Upton Warren in Worcestershire, while “collecting and holding out certain flowers called yelowe boddles growing on the bank”‘. According to the researchers yellow boddles ‘are also known as corn marigolds or corn daisies’ (Glebionis, formerly Chrysanthemum, segetum).
Given the riverbank habitat, the equation of yellow boddles with corn marigold seems peculiar, surely marsh marigold (Caltha palustris) seems more probable. Unfortunately The Times article does not record at what time of year Jane Shaxspere’s death occurred. If it was in the spring, this would confirm the identity of yellow boddles as marsh marigold; if it was later in the year, corn marigold could be the species intended.

Discussion
Steven Gunn, one of the Oxford researchers, has sent a copy of the translation of the inquest. Jane Shaxpere died on 16 June. Although there are few, if any, records of when plants flowered in the sixteenth century, 16 June seems too late for marsh marigolds, and probably too early for corn marigolds, but it seems most probable that yelowe boddles were the latter.

Image: corn marigold, sown, Hyde Park, London; August 2015.

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