Shakespeare's 'Honey-stalks'

  • R. Barber
  • Notes and Queries, January 2015, Oxford University Press (OUP)
  • DOI: 10.1093/notesj/gju225

Is 'Honey-stalks' Warwickshire dialect?

What is it about?

The word 'honey-stalks', used by Shakespeare, has been given as Warwickshire dialect for clover blossom since Dr Samuel Johnson first guessed at its meaning. But in fact it is Shakespeare's poetic conflation for any vegetation laden with a kind of dew known as honey-dew.

Why is it important?

'Honey-stalks' is one of many errors made by Shakespeare's early editors, which have been unquestioningly repeated by later editors and accepted as fact. It is one of the key words/phrases used to support the idea that Shakespeare used Warwickshire dialect, a widely held assumption which is now being questioned.


Dr Ros Barber
Goldsmiths, University of London

This article arose as part of ongoing research into arguments used to defend the traditional authorship of Shakespeare's works: in this case, that 'honey-stalks' is Warwickshire dialect.

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The following have contributed to this page: Dr Ros Barber