In Shakespeare’s 1611 play The Winter’s Tale, Polixenes and Perdita discuss the relationship between art and nature. They are particularly concerned with inheritance, whether a lineage is to be selected randomly of with some intent.
Predita makes a comparison between a family inheritance and that of one of the commonest flowers that were cultivated in Elizabethan gardens, carnations. How does nature guide these genealogies?
Yet nature is made better by no mean
But nature makes that mean; so, over that art,
Which you say adds to nature, is an art
That nature makes. You see, sweet maid, we marry
A gentler scion to the wildest stock
And make conceive a bark of baser kind
By bud of nobler race; this is an art
Which does mend nature, change it rather, but
The art itself is nature.
Then make your garden rich in gillyvors
And do not call them bastards.
The Winter’s Tale is at The Garrick Theatre, London, until January 16th 2016.