Look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under't (1.5.74-5)
Some editors believe these lines derive from Virgil's Eclogues 3.93,
You, picking flowers and strawberries that grow
In The Royal Play of Macbeth (the most fascinating and convincing book I have ever read on Shakespeare's authorial intention) Henry Neill Paul explains that these lines are an allusion to arguably the most significant moment in Shakespeare's time, the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot.
So near the ground, fly hence, boys, get you gone!
There's a cold adder lurking in the grass.
To commemorate the discovery of the heinous scheme, King James had a medal created picturing a serpent hiding amongst flowers. Every person watching Shakespeare's drama in Jacobean England would have understood immediately the context and weight of such an allusion.
Please see Contemporary References to King James I in Shakespeare's Macbeth for more information.
Back to Macbeth (1.5)
How to cite this article:
Mabillard, Amanda. Macbeth Glossary. Shakespeare Online. 20 Aug. 2000. (date when you accessed the information) < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/macbeth/macbethglossary/macbeth1_1/macbethglos_innocentflower.html >.
Macbeth: The Complete Play with Annotations and Commentary
James I and Shakespeare's Sources for Macbeth
The Metre of Macbeth: Blank Verse and Rhymed Lines
Macbeth Character Introduction
Metaphors in Macbeth (Biblical)
Soliloquy Analysis: If it were done when 'tis done (1.7.1-29)
Soliloquy Analysis: Is this a dagger (2.1.33-61)
Soliloquy Analysis: To be thus is nothing (3.1.47-71)
Soliloquy Analysis: She should have died hereafter (5.5.17-28)
Explanatory Notes for Lady Macbeth's Soliloquy (1.5)
The Psychoanalysis of Lady Macbeth (Sleepwalking Scene)
Lady Macbeth's Suicide
Is Lady Macbeth's Swoon Real?
Explanatory Notes for the Witches' Chants (4.1)
Macbeth Plot Summary (Acts 1 and 2)
Macbeth Plot Summary (Acts 3, 4 and 5)
A Comparison of Macbeth and Hamlet
The Effect of Lady Macbeth's Death on Macbeth
The Curse of Macbeth
Macbeth Q & A
Aesthetic Examination Questions on Macbeth
What is Tragic Irony?
Macbeth Study Quiz (with detailed answers)
Quotations from Macbeth (Full)
Top 10 Quotations from Macbeth
Characteristics of Elizabethan Tragedy
Shakespeare's Workmanship: Crafting a Sympathetic Macbeth
Temptation, Sin, Retribution: Lecture Notes on Macbeth
Untie the winds: Exploring the Witches' Control Over Nature in Macbeth
Why Shakespeare is so Important
Shakespeare's Influence on Other Writers