Sundials - World's Oldest Clocks

North American Sundial Society

 ShakespeareFrank Cousins in the appendix of his book Sundials includes a list of references to sundials in Shakespeare. Mechanical timepieces were extremely rare in Shakespeare's day. Cousins credits the list to Professor Delius, The Leopold Shakespeare, Cassel. London, 1887. Here are the full citations taken from the online Complete Works of William Shakespeare.

As You Like It
Act II. Scene VII. line 21.

Jaques:
'Good morrow, fool,' quoth I. 'No, sir,' quoth he,
'Call me not fool till heaven hath sent me fortune:'
And then he drew a dial from his poke,
And, looking on it with lack-lustre eye,
Says very wisely, 'It is ten o'clock:
Thus we may see,' quoth he, 'how the world wags:
'Tis but an hour ago since it was nine,
And after one hour more 'twill be eleven;
And so, from hour to hour, we ripe and ripe,
And then, from hour to hour, we rot and rot;
And thereby hangs a tale.' When I did hear
The motley fool thus moral on the time,
My lungs began to crow like chanticleer,
That fools should be so deep-contemplative,
And I did laugh sans intermission
An hour by his dial. O noble fool!
A worthy fool! Motley's the only wear.

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All's Well That Ends Well
Act II. Scene V. line 7.

Lafeau:
But I hope your lordship thinks not him a soldier.

Bertram:
Yes, my lord, and of very valiant approof.

Lafeau:
You have it from his own deliverance.

Bertram:
And by other warranted testimony.

Lafeau:
Then my dial goes not true: I took this lark for a bunting.

Bertram:
I do assure you, my lord, he is very great in knowledge,
and accordingly valiant.

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The Comedy of Errors
Act V. Scene I. line 125.

Adriana:
Come, go: I will fall prostrate at his feet,
And never rise until my tears and prayers
Have won his Grace to come in person hither,
And take perforce my husband from the abbess.

Second Merchant:
By this, I think, the dial points at five:
Anon, I’m sure, the duke himself in person
Comes this way to the melancholy vale,
The place of death and sorry execution,
Behind the ditches of the abbey here.

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The Tragedy of King Richard the Second
Act V. Scene V. line 51.

King Richard:
I wasted time, and now doth time waste me;
For now hath time made me his numbering clock:
My thoughts are minutes, and with sighs they jar
Their watches on unto mine eyes, the outward watch,
Whereto my finger, like a dial's point,
Is pointing still, in cleansing them from tears.

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The First Part of King Henry the Fourth
Act I. Scene II. line 4.

Falstaff:
Now, Hal, what time of day is it, lad?

Prince Hal:
Thou art so fat-witted, with drinking of old sack, and
unbuttoning thee after supper, and sleeping upon benches after noon,
that thou hast forgotten to demand that truly which thou wouldst truly
know. What a devil hast thou to do with the time of the day? unless
hours were cups of sack, and minutes capons, and clocks the tongues of
bawds, and dials the signs of leaping-houses, and the blessed sun
himself a fair hot wench in flame-colour'd taffeta, I see no reason why
thou shouldst be so superfluous to demand the time of the day.

Act V. Scene II. line 87.

Hotspur:
O gentlemen! the time of life is short;
To spend that shortness basely were too long,
If life did ride upon a dial's point,
Still ending at the arrival of an hour.
An if we live, we live to tread on kings;
If die, brave death, when princes die with us!
Now, for our consciences, the arms are fair,
When the intent of bearing them is just.

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The Life of King Henry the Fifth
Act I. Scene II. line 210.

The Archbishop of Canterbury:
The lazy yawning drone. I this infer,
That many things, having full reference
To one consent, may work contrariously;
As many arrows, loosed several ways,
Fly to one mark; as many ways meet in one town;
As many fresh streams meet in one salt sea;
As many lines close in the dial's centre;
So may a thousand actions, once afoot,
End in one purpose, and be all well borne
Without defeat. Therefore to France, my liege.

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The Third Part of King Henry the Sixth
Act II. Scene V. line 21.

King Henry:
Would I were dead! if God's good will were so;
For what is in this world but grief and woe?
O God! methinks it were a happy life,
To be no better than a homely swain;
To sit upon a hill, as I do now,
To carve out dials quaintly, point by point,
Thereby to see the minutes how they run,
How many make the hour full complete;
How many hours bring about the day;
How many days will finish up the year;
How many years a mortal man may live.
When this is known, then to divide the times:
So many hours must I tend my flock;
So many hours must I take my rest;
So many hours must I contemplate;
So many hours must I sport myself;
So many days my ewes have been with young;
So many weeks ere the poor fools will ean;
So many years ere I shall shear the fleece:
So minutes, hours, days, months, and years,
Pass'd over to the end they were created,
Would bring white hairs unto a quiet grave.
Ah! what a life were this! how sweet! how lovely!

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Romeo and Juliet
Act II. Scene IV. line 61.

Nurse:
God ye good morrow, gentlemen.

Mercutio:
God ye good den, fair gentlewoman.

Nurse:
Is it good den?

Mercutio:
'Tis no less, I tell you; for the bawdy hand of the dial is now
upon the prick of noon.

Nurse:
Out upon you! what a man are you!

Romeo:
One, gentlewoman, that God hath made for himself to mar.

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Othello, the Moor of Venice
Act III. Scene IV. line 187.

Bianca:
And I was going to your lodging, Cassio.
What! keep a week away? seven days and nights?
Eight score eight hours? and lovers' absent hours,
More tedious than the dial eight score times?
O weary reckoning!

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Macbeth
Act V. Scene V. Line 17.

Macbeth:
She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.--
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow; a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

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The Sonnets

LXXVII.

Thy glass will show thee how thy beauties wear,
Thy dial how thy precious minutes waste;
The vacant leaves thy mind's imprint will bear,
And of this book this learning mayst thou taste.
The wrinkles which thy glass will truly show
Of mouthed graves will give thee memory;
Thou by thy dial's shady stealth mayst know
Time's thievish progress to eternity.
Look, what thy memory can not contain
Commit to these waste blanks, and thou shalt find
Those children nursed, deliver'd from thy brain,
To take a new acquaintance of thy mind.
These offices, so oft as thou wilt look,
Shall profit thee and much enrich thy book

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CIV.

To me, fair friend, you never can be old,
For as you were when first your eye I eyed,
Such seems your beauty still. Three winters cold
Have from the forests shook three summers' pride,
Three beauteous springs to yellow autumn turn'd
In process of the seasons have I seen,
Three April perfumes in three hot Junes burn'd,
Since first I saw you fresh, which yet are green.
Ah! yet doth beauty, like a dial-hand,
Steal from his figure and no pace perceived;
So your sweet hue, which methinks still doth stand,
Hath motion and mine eye may be deceived:
For fear of which, hear this, thou age unbred;
Ere you were born was beauty's summer dead