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fennel “for you, and columbines,” HAMLET, iv. 5. 177. Fennel was an emblem of flattery ( “Dare finocchio, to flatter or giue Fennell.” Florio's Ital. and Engl. Dict. ), and was also considered as a provocative (see conger, etc.); and in the present passage, where Ophelia seems to address the King, we may certainly suppose that she offers him “flattery,” though we do not agree with Mr. Staunton in supposing that here fennel signifies “lust” also (fennel, moreover, was thought to have the property of clearing the sight; but there appears to be no allusion to that property here, though Mr. Beisly, in his Shakspere's Garden, etc., p. 158, positively states that there is). Columbines, having no particular virtues or properties ascribed to them, perhaps are emblematical of ingratitude. Chapman, in his All Fools, 1605, calls columbine“a thankless flower.” (Holt White quotes Browne's Britannia's Pastorals to show that“columbine was emblematical of forsaken lovers;” but here Ophelia is not assigning the columbines to herself, and except herself, there is no“love-lorn” person present.)

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  • Cross-references in text-specific dictionaries from this page (1):
    • William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, 4.5
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