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“The Bees” by William Shakespeare is a wonderful adaptation from the renowned play “Henry V”. It depicts a honeybee colony that is organized in an extremely disciplined and super-efficient manner. This kind of society can be held up as a sane example that even humans may follow.
Stanza 1 (Line1-5)
“So work the honey- bees, creatures that by a rule in nature teach The art 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;”
Shakespeare highlights that nature teaches the honeybees to work throughout their lifetime. Thus, with the working abilities, they set an example and teach us, the readers “the art of order to a peopled kingdom”, i.e., the order in which people must work. People must learn to organize their work to make their kingdom a successful country just like the bees.
The bees too have a king and “officers of sorts” that work under the king in an organized manner. Shakespeare gives examples of “magistrates”, “merchants”, “soldiers” and just like they have different duties to administrate law, trade new projects that involve great risks, and guard the nation.
The same way the bee’s world work as well, they see to it that everyone is following the rules and doing their job like guarding the home that is the beehive and traveling like merchants to gather nectar from flowers and guard themselves with the help of their “stings”.
Stanza 2 (Line 6-10)
“ 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 magesty, surveys,”
The bees like soldiers “armed in their stings” look for beautiful flowers that will have juicy nectar from which they can collect, they especially look for the “summer’s velvet buds”. After being successful in collecting the nectar they become very cheerful while bringing it to their hive where the “the emperor” lives i.e., the Bee King in his “royal tent”. The king bee is busy in his royal duties managing his kingdom.
Stanza 3 (Line 11- 17)
“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 narrowgate, The sad eyed Justice, with his surly hum, Delivering over to executors pale” The lazy yawning drone”
The bees like “masons” (a person skilled in cutting, dressing, and laying the stone in buildings) are building their roof of gold, here honey is compared to gold as it is yellow in colour and bees’ most precious possession and they hum while doing it and thus Shakespeare refers to them as “the singing masons”.
The other bees that are “the civil citizens” are working on mixing the honey to make it uniform. “The poor mechanic porters”, the bees who do the heavy work of lifting to go inside the beehive from the “narrowgate”.
The bad-tempered Judge of the bees who has sad eyes is the one who punishes the ones not doing their work properly and delivers them to the pale executors of the bees to kill the lazy ones.
This poem outlines the different roles the bees play within the honey bee colony, as an example of the well-ordered society, the poem describes the hierarchy of distribution of work in the process of making honey. There are different bees that carry on the work. They have a king and another officer bee to monitor their work. Some bees take up the task of venturing honey. Some guard the hive as like that of masons. But there is one bee that does not take up any work and that is the drone. It is a lazy bee.