Shakespeare's  MedlersShakespeare's Medlars


The Bard seems to have cared not for the fruit of Mespilus germanica, as evidenced by references to medlars in four of his plays:


Measure for Measure, Act IV, Scene III, line 135



Lucio.   Good even. Friar, where is the provost? 

Duke.   Not within, sir. 

Lucio.   O pretty Isabella, I am pale at mine heart to see thine eyes so red: thou must be patient. I am fain to dine and sup with water and bran; I dare not for my head fill my belly;  one fruitful meal would set me to ’t. But they say the duke will be here to-morrow. By my troth, Isabel, I loved thy brother: if the old fantastical duke of dark corners had been at home, he had lived. [Exit ISABELLA.

Duke.   Sir, the duke is marvellous little beholding to your reports; but the best is, he lives not in them. 

Lucio.   Friar, thou knowest not the duke so well as I do: he’s a better woodman than thou takest him for. 

Duke.   Well, you’ll answer this one day. Fare ye well. 

Lucio.   Nay, tarry; I’ll go along with thee: I can tell thee pretty tales of the duke.

Duke.   You have told me too many of him already, sir, if they be true; if not true, none were enough.

Lucio.   I was once before him for getting a wench with child.

Duke.   Did you such a thing?

Lucio.   Yes, marry, did I; but I was fain to forswear it: they would else have married me to the rotten medlar.

Duke.   Sir, your company is fairer than honest. Rest you well. 

Lucio.   By my troth, I’ll go with thee to the lane’s end. If bawdy talk offend you, we’ll have very little of it. Nay, friar, I am a kind of burr; I shall stick. [Exeunt. 


As You Like It, Act III, Scene II, line 44



Touchstone.   I’ll rime you so, eight years together, dinners and suppers and sleeping hours excepted: it is the right butter-women’s rank to market. 

Rosalind.   Out, fool!

Touchstone.   For a taste:—

  If a hart do lack a hind,

  Let him seek out Rosalind.

  If the cat will after kind,

  So be sure will Rosalind.

  Winter-garments must be lin’d,

  So must slender Rosalind.

  They that reap must sheaf and bind,

  Then to cart with Rosalind.

  Sweetest nut hath sourest rind,

  Such a nut is Rosalind.

  He that sweetest rose will find

  Must find love’s prick and Rosalind.

  This is the very false gallop of verses: why do you infect yourself with them? 

Rosalind.   Peace! you dull fool: I found them on a tree. 

Touchstone.   Truly, the tree yields bad fruit.

Rosalind.   I’ll graff it with you, and then I shall graff it with a medlar: then it will be the earliest fruit i’ the country;

  for you’ll be rotten ere you be half ripe, and that’s the right virtue of the medlar. 

Touchstone.   You have said; but whether wisely or no, let the forest judge.


Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene I, line 38 and 40





BENVOLIO.   Romeo! my cousin Romeo!

MERCUTIO.      He is wise;

  And, on my life, hath stol’n him home to bed.

BENVOLIO.   He ran this way, and leap’d this orchard wall:

  Call, good Mercutio. 

MERCUTIO.      Nay, I’ll conjure too.

  Romeo! humours! madman! passion! lover!

  Appear thou in the likeness of a sigh:

  Speak but one rime and I am satisfied;

  Cry but ‘Ay me!’ couple but ‘love’ and ‘dove;’

  Speak to my gossip Venus one fair word.

   One nickname for her purblind son and heir,

  Young Adam Cupid, he that shot so trim

  When King Cophetua lov’d the beggar-maid.

  He heareth not, he stirreth not, he moveth not;

  The ape is dead, and I must conjure him.

  I conjure thee by Rosaline’s bright eyes,

  By her high forehead, and her scarlet lip,

  By her fine foot, straight leg, and quivering thigh,

   And the demesnes that there adjacent lie,

  That in thy likeness thou appear to us.

BENVOLIO.   An if he hear thee, thou wilt anger him.

MERCUTIO.   This cannot anger him: ’twould anger him

  To raise a spirit in his mistress’ circle

  Of some strange nature, letting it there stand

  Till she had laid it, and conjur’d it down; 

  That were some spite: my invocation

  Is fair and honest, and in his mistress’ name 

  I conjure only but to raise up him.

BENVOLIO.   Come, he hath hid himself among these trees,

  To be consorted with the humorous night:

  Blind is his love and best befits the dark.

MERCUTIO.   If love be blind, love cannot hit the mark.

   Now will he sit under a medlar tree,

  And wish his mistress were that kind of fruit

  As maids call medlars, when they laugh alone.

  O Romeo! that she were, O! that she were

  An open et cœtera, thou a poperin pear.

  Romeo, good night: I’ll to my truckle-bed;

  This field-bed is too cold for me to sleep:

  Come, shall we go?

BENVOLIO.   Go, then; for ’tis in vain

 To seek him here that means not to be found. [Exeunt.



Timon of Athens, Act IV, Scene III, line 321 and 323



Timon.      Under that’s above me.

  Where feed’st thou o’ days, Apemantus?

Apemantus.   Where my stomach finds meat; or, rather, where I eat it.

Timon.   Would poison were obedient and knew my mind!

Apemantus.   Where wouldst thou send it?

Timon.   To sauce thy dishes.

Apemantus.   The middle of humanity thou never knewest, but the extremity of both ends.

  When thou wast in thy gilt and thy perfume, they mocked thee for too much curiosity;

  in thy rags thou knowest none, but art despised for the contrary. There’s a medlar for thee; eat it.

Timon.   On what I hate I feed not.

Apemantus.   Dost hate a medlar?

Timon.   Ay, though it look like thee.

Apemantus.   An thou hadst hated meddlers sooner, thou shouldst have loved thyself better now. What man didst thou ever know unthrift that was beloved after his means?