The hottest name in Literature …


Be warned:  today’s post has little to do with Shakespeare per se, except as an example of my own peculiar insanity, and a way of getting rid of an ‘ear-worm’ that has been plaguing me since May.

A side-effect of being an English teacher is that you become a little aphoristic, literary quotations peppering your conversation like grapeshot fired from an arquebus.  Imagine what fun our departmental outings are!

A side-effect of my Shakespeare monomania is that (despite very real passions for other genres and authors), it’s Shakespeare quotations which dominate my thoughts and conversations.  The downside of that is that I must frequently come over as an insufferable snob, despite railing against Shakesnobbery whenever I find it.  There isn’t much that happens to me which I don’t, subconsciously or deliberately, frame in Shakespearean terms.

Let me take you back just four short months, to the day when I bought three small chilli plants at a garden centre.  I’m a very lazy – and historically very unsuccessful – gardener: perhaps the two are linked.  My last attempt at growing chillies resulted in six plants that were about as tall as I am, and not a single pepper, thanks to an aphid apocalypse which I failed to address.  I vowed to do better this time.

2019519 chilli plants
19 May 2019

Here’s where the monomania – and the ear-worm – begun.  No sooner had I re-planted the seedlings (lazily waiting about two weeks after I’d bought them, when they were already beginning to look a bit tired), than a quotation from Macbeth entered my mind, and stayed there.  Tweeting the picture with the quotation failed to help.

I have begun to plant thee, and will labour
To make thee full of growing. (Macbeth, I.iv)

In a weird way, it felt like a promise made.  A bit like naming an animal you have rescued.

By the end of the school year, the plants had, surprisingly, flourished, but I was faced with a terrible dilemma.  I routinely get out of town for the entire summer break, and had no-one to look after the plants for me whilst I was away (this is, by the way, the reason I don’t keep pets).  There was only one solution: even my colleagues, who should know me by now, were baffled by the fact that I took my plants to work on the last day, and thence on three pretty packed trains to North Wales.  You can imagine the looks I got, yet with true British ‘stiff upper lip’, no one asked me.  Anyway, it was that or allow them to die, right?  And I had another Shakespeare quotation ringing in my ears.

20190719 chillies.jpg
19 July 2019

I have a journey, sir, shortly to go.
My master calls me; I must not say no. (King Lear:  V.iii)

Fast forward to today.  The one tiny red pepper you can see in the photograph had found some friends, and even this lazy gardener decided to pick the fruits of his labours rather than let them go to waste.

20190922 chilli harvest.jpg
22 September 2019

if I grow,
The harvest is your own. (Macbeth, I.iv)

The quotation was genuinely running through my mind on loop as I snipped away with my kitchen scissors!  I said I was insane, right?  But if it hadn’t been for the quotations, I wonder if I would have looked after the plants so well …

So, almost exactly four months after repotting the three plants, I’ve ended up with a bowl containing maybe 60-75 of the little beauties.  It’s been an achievement to keep the plants alive that long, but still it didn’t seem particularly impressive, because they are tiny.  So I decided to look up the variety, and got a little scorched by the numbers:

20190922 chilli for scale.jpg
this photo for scale

How hot is the Apache pepper? Its Scoville heat rating of 80,000 to 100,000 Scoville heat units aligns the Apache pepper as an extra-hot pepper, though on the milder side of that qualification. In relation to our jalapeño reference point, this puts the Apache pepper as 10 to 40 times hotter than a jalapeño pepper. […] At its height, the Apache pepper touches habanero pepper level spiciness [b]


And after tasting one, which is still making its presence felt about an hour later, I can vouch for that power!  There’s one final – obvious -Shakespeare quotation to use, then:

‘though she be but little, she is fierce.’ (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, III.ii)


[a] all play quotations are taken from


Author: Boar's Head, Eastcheap

Hyperactive English Teacher and Tutor; Shakespeare-obsessed 'Villainous abominable misleader of youth'; 'old white-bearded Satan'; Friend of the Orangutan

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