chapter  7
14 Pages

Brewing the language of love

Victorian novels, sonnets, Shakespeare and Snape

Half-Blood Prince is the Harry Potter novel in which romantic love plays the most explicit role. The unusual stress of the Half-Blood Prince on romantic love is also a clue about the motivation of its titular hero. This novel is explicitly concerned with Love Potions and, tacitly, it concerns the Potions master's love. The first potion that is described in detail in Harry Potter is the Draught of Living Death, whose ingredients – asphodel and bitterest wormwood – have been interpreted by fandom as symbolizing Snape's deep regret for Lily's death: 'according to the Victorian Language of Flowers, asphodel is a type of lily meaning "my regrets follow you to the grave", and wormwood means "absence" and symbolizes bitter sorrow. The Draught of Living Death also recalls the sleeping potion taken by Shakespeare's heroine in Romeo and Juliet, so powerful that it 'wrought on her/ The form of death'.