The 1562 Geneva Bible called this instrument the “Besom” it was one of the instruments the priests are instructed to use for taking care of the Tabernacle in Exodus 25
Of course, this is what we call a broom. But Did Shakespeare Use a Broom? Let’s explore.
To make cold nymphs chaste crowns; and thy broom -groves, Whose shadow the dismissed bachelor loves, Being lass-lorn…– Iris, Act IV Scene 1, The Tempest There are two other places Shakespeare mentions brooms and cleaning:
I am sent with broom before, To sweep the dust behind the door. Puck, Midsummer Night’s Dream V.1and then again when Jack Cade says,
I am the besom that must sweep the court clean of such filth as thou art. Henry VI Part II (IV.7)So apparently, the tradition of a broom being symbolic existed in Shakespeare’s lifetime, and they were associated with cleaning, but considering the history of objects and how items from today go back just as well as the history of people, I wondered what kind of technological advances had been made in terms of household cleaning. They had all those churches, cathedrals, shops, and homes in Shakespeare’s lifetime–but did they use a broom like we have today to clean them?
A broomsquire is someone who makes besom brooms for a living. It is a trade that was historically usually unique to heathland areas of England. The broomsquire tended to use heather or birch twigs gathered from the heathland to make the brooms.
Sabine Baring-Gould – The Broom-Squire Publisher: John Owen Smith (April 2000) ISBN 1-873855-34-6. ISBN 978-1-873855-34-8
For Shakespeare, these broom salesmen would undoubtedly been seen in the streets whether in London and Stratford Upon Avon.
These brooms are more what you might call rudimentary than the ones we have today, and this broom I have here uses plastic bristles, where Shakespeare’s would have certainly been made of plants and twigs. But the general design hasn’t changed (perhaps a sign of much needed innovation?) in close to 500 years.