Science in Literature: ‘Double, double toil and trouble…’

‘…Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.’

In this famous scene from Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’, the three witches huddle around their cauldron in a cave, creating a dark and dangerous atmosphere to precede the arrival of Macbeth himself.

The witches’ potion-brewing may remind you more of Hogwarts than your average BGS Chemistry lesson, although the building tension as they add ingredients to the gruesome mixture certainly does bear some similarity to the excitement of starting a new experiment and wondering what will happen.

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Science in Literature: The Laboratory

In honour of British Science Week, we’ve been looking at where science and literature collide. While the two may seem poles apart, literature is in fact saturated with experiments, dissections, potions and ‘hocus pocus.’

Our first example is Robert Browning’s 1844 dramatic monologue ‘The Laboratory’, in which a woman addresses an apothecary as he mixes the poison with which she will kill her romantic rivals in the royal court. The speaker is based on Madame de Brinvilliers, a 17th Century French noblewoman, who poisoned many of her male relations. Incidentally, after being arrested, she claimed, ‘Half the people of quality are involved in this sort of thing, and I could ruin them if I were to talk.’

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Tales Through Time: Romeo and Juliet

The link between West Side Story, William Shakespeare and The Apprentice’s theme tune, there’s hardly an area of our culture in which the tragic tale of Romeo and Juliet hasn’t made an appearance. Although Shakespeare can be credited with turning the plot into common knowledge of the British public, the origins of the story can be traced back to an Italian novella written over five hundred years ago. But how did Romeo’s declaration of love to Juliet ‘Did my heart love till now? forswear it sight! For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night.’ in 1597 become – in the lyrics of a song by Dire Straits in 1981 – ‘you and me babe, how about it?’

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