Sunday, June 03, 2012

King Bee or not King Bee

Adam Gopnik on the BBC website has pointed out that Shakespeare thought the bee in charge of the hive was a gentleman bee. He cites Henry V I:2

"For so work the honey-bees,
Creatures that by a rule in nature teach
The act of order to a peopled kingdom.
They have a king and officers of sorts;
Where some, like magistrates, correct at home,
Others, like merchants, venture trade abroad,
Others, like soldiers, armed in their stings,
Make boot upon the summer's velvet buds;
Which pillage they with merry march bring home
To the tent-royal of their emperor:
Who, busied in his majesty, surveys
The singing masons building roofs of gold,
The civil citizens kneading up the honey,
The poor mechanic porters crowding in
Their heavy burdens at his narrow gate,
The sad-eyed justice, with his surly hum,
Delivering o'er to executors pale
The lazy yawning drone."

He then very kindly did some Googling for us so we didn't have to:

"the bee sex confusion goes back at least to Aristotle, and was only solved in the late 17th Century, when Swammerdam found that the king was, so to speak, cross-dressing and really had ovaries."

For more details, the rest of the article is here.

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