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Museum

Sheath for a pair of wedding knives

A sheath for a pair of 'wedding knives', dated 1602. Made from boxwood and elaborately carved with Christian motifs. The carvings include depictions of the six works of mercy mentioned in the New Testament (Matthew XXV. 35, 36). Below is a shield supported by an angel, and inscribed with a merchant's mark, with the initials 'I.N'. On the inner side are six illustrations of the story of the Prodigal Son; on each of the sides appear six of the Apostles with their symbols. Below are the letters 'W.G.W'. and the date, 1602. The initials occur on two similar wooden sheaths, dated 1593 and 1615, which are in the Debruge-Dumesnil Collection in Paris and appear to have been the mark of a sculptor in wood, probably Flemish., 1868 Catalogue - 'A sheath for a pair of knives, formerly carried by ladies, and by Juliet. See the notes to Romeo and Juliet, various editions [this reference to Juliet wearing them, as allegedly described in the 1597 Quarto seems to be spurious]. This specimen is of box-wood; richly and curiously carved in every part. The subjects represented are the six Works of Mercy (Matthew XXV. 35,36). Below is a scutcheon supported by an angel, and charged with a merchant's mark, with the initials 'I.N'. On the inner side are six subjects exhibiting the history of the Prodigal Son; on each of the sides appear six of the Apostles with their symbols. Below are the letters 'W.G.W. and the date, 1602. These initials, which occur upon two similar wooden sheaths in the Debruge Dumesnil collection at Paris, dated in 1593 and 1615, appear to have been the mark of a sculptor in wood, probably Flemish, noted for his skill in works of this character.', Reference to wedding knives in 'King Edward III' (anonymous but attributed to Shakespeare) - 2.2. lines 171-3 Countess: 'Here by my side doth hang my wedding knives:/Take thou the one, and with it kill thy queen,/And learn by me to find her where she lies;'.

  • Measurements

  • Length

    230 mm

  • Marks & inscriptions

    W.G.W. 1602, I.N.,

  • Location

    New Place - Exhibition Centre

  • Credit line

    CC-BY-NC-ND Image Courtesy of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust