We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Does "Rosemary for Remembrance" Mean?

Tricia Christensen
By
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
Language & Humanities is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At Language & Humanities, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

“Rosemary for remembrance” is a phrase that most often references the character Ophelia’s words in William Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet. The association of rosemary with remembrance, and with funerals, mourning or celebrations, predates the bard’s play. Undoubtedly, Shakespeare’s words have proven memorable and influential, as shown by the writings of others. Interestingly, though, in a scientific context, rosemary and memory do share important connections.

Shakespeare’s famous scene from Hamlet features an increasingly unbalanced Ophelia, who talks, sings, and babbles about her father’s death, to her brother, Laertes. Interestingly, the exact quote from the play doesn’t include the phrase, “rosemary for remembrance.” Rather it is: “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance; pray, love, remember.”

There are many interpretations of this scene, but since it occurs shortly before Ophelia’s death, a number of scholars believe that the idea of “rosemary for remembrance” is of somewhat lesser importance. Instead, they argue that Shakespeare uses the herb to allude to the common convention of placing it on the bodies of the dead. In this way, he is able to foreshadow Ophelia’s impending demise.

Another interpretation that might make sense is that rosemary is a fragrance that clings. Ophelia’s absence is felt almost as much as her presence, and it partially drives the actions of her brother. She resembles the tenacity of rosemary’s aroma, and the way it lingers.

Even before Shakespeare's time, many individuals and cultures assigned meaning to this herb. As mentioned, it could be used in funerals or in the care of the dead. On the other hand, wearing wreaths of rosemary was sometimes the fashion in bridal wear, so it wasn’t always connected with sadness.

This little plant was also thought to repel evil spirits and cure thievery. 15th and early 16th century statesman and writer, Sir Thomas More, specifically ties rosemary to memory in his writing. He writes fondly of it “running” about his garden without cultivation because: “it is the herb sacred to remembrance, and therefore, to friendship…”

Veneration of rosemary has certainly continued. Sometimes references to it are meant to evoke Shakespeare. An Agatha Christie novel, published as both Remembered Death and Sparkling Cyanide, uses the playwright’s quote. Many other literary allusions to rosemary for remembrance exist.

Fascinating recent research may scientifically verify a connection between rosemary and remembrance. Several studies evaluating aromatherapy suggest that the herb actually stimulates memory and may preserve some cognitive function. If these studies are accurate, a sprig of rosemary is not the harbinger of doom that it was for poor Ophelia. Instead, it may be an aromatic preserver of the thoughts people hold dear.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Language & Humanities contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By MrsPramm — On Jan 29, 2014

@pleonasm - If the studies linking it to preserving memories are correct they might end up putting some of the properties of rosemary into pills that can enhance your cognitive function in general. You can already get a variety of different natural boosts for your brain, like fish oils.

With a built in motto that rosemary is for remembrance, I'm surprised no one has jumped on this kind of thing before. Of course, it would be just as easy for people to get rosemary from the herb section in the supermarket, but that wouldn't make as much money.

By pleonasm — On Jan 28, 2014

@croydon - I know if you're studying for a test you're supposed to chew a particular flavor of gum while studying and the same flavor when you're taking the test, in order to trigger memories.

I wonder if you could get something flavored with rosemary instead in order to help jog your memory in more than one way.

By croydon — On Jan 27, 2014

They say that scent is closely matched with memory anyway, which is why smelling something familiar can trigger a rush of memories. And rosemary is a very strong smelling, distinctive herb, so it doesn't surprise me that it can stimulate memory.

I wonder, though, if it only stimulates memories that are associated with it or if it stimulates memory in general.

I always put a few sprigs of rosemary on my grandmother's grave, because she used to say it was one of the symbols of remembrance, so I strongly associate the smell with her. Perhaps this is also because she cooked with it all the time.

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen

Writer

With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Language & Humanities contributor,...
Learn more
Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.