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Honored Contributor
Posts: 14,463
Registered: ‎11-08-2014

SHAKESPEARE AND BUBONIC PLAGUE

[ Edited ]

"The Atlantic" has a fascinating little piece on the relationship of bubonic plague to Shakespeare's titanic literary output.

 

As you know, in his time, the plague roiled all of Europe, and came and went with some frequency.  Shakespeare was an actor as well as a writer, but when the plague raged in London, the theaters were closed:

 

"It’s long been thought that Shakespeare turned to poetry when plague closed the theaters in 1593. That’s when he published his popular narrative poem, Venus and Adonis, in which the goddess begs a kiss from a beautiful boy, 

 

Then, get this, also from the "Atlantic" piece:

 

"But Shapiro suggests that another closure of theaters, in 1606, allowed Shakespeare, an actor and shareholder in The King’s Men, to get a lot of dramatic writing done, meeting the demand for new plays in a busy holiday season at court. According to Shapiro, he churned out King Lear, Macbeth, and Antony and Cleopatra that year."

 

How sobering and astounding to think that masterpieces like King Lear and Macbeth, may have seen the light of day partly due to the enforced idleness of busy actor and writer Shakespeare during plague-caused theater shut-downs....

 

Coincidentally, I was watching part of Olivier's "Hamlet" tonight, and thinking about Shakespeare.... 

 

Raising a cup of warm, pre-bed milk (ick, that sounds horrid) to the immortal Bard!

 

 

Esteemed Contributor
Posts: 6,202
Registered: ‎03-14-2010

Re: SHAKESPEARE AND BUBONIC PLAGUE

Oznell - I had read that too. 

 

 

Honored Contributor
Posts: 8,426
Registered: ‎05-19-2012

Re: SHAKESPEARE AND BUBONIC PLAGUE

Thank you, ozzie.  I saw your post as I was about to put up new closing info on a far more sublunary topic, the Las Vegas strip.

 

Interesting thought.

 

 

Esteemed Contributor
Posts: 7,210
Registered: ‎03-23-2010

Re: SHAKESPEARE AND BUBONIC PLAGUE

Thanks for sharing this @Oznell 😊

 

I've read that one reason The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet was popular was because it was performed after some shut-downs.  The people were excited to see a play. . .any play. . .and to see Romeo being delayed at the end because the messenger was quarantined really hit home.  Recent events will surely help modern day students have a better understanding of that part of R and J.  

Honored Contributor
Posts: 14,463
Registered: ‎11-08-2014

Re: SHAKESPEARE AND BUBONIC PLAGUE

Great story and insight, @wildcat fan !  Knowing what's happened in the past, always increases understanding of present-day events, I believe.

Trusted Contributor
Posts: 1,120
Registered: ‎12-16-2010

Re: SHAKESPEARE AND BUBONIC PLAGUE

@Oznell 

 

That's quite fascinating.  Every cloud has a silver lining.  Perhaps, this will make us all a lot more appreciative of our blessings and the little things that we take for granted.

 

Another tidbit for you is that during a Plague outbreak in London, Sir Isaac Newton retreated to the English countryside and there formulated many theories and wrote Principles of Mathematics which was one of the most important books of the Scientific Revolution and helped lead to the Industrial Revolution. 

 

I know this piece of information because I'm an old history teacher! 

Honored Contributor
Posts: 14,463
Registered: ‎11-08-2014

Re: SHAKESPEARE AND BUBONIC PLAGUE

Wow, fascinating, @Tennesseegal -- thank you for that tidbit about Isaac Newton, another gift of pure genius to the world.

Esteemed Contributor
Posts: 5,016
Registered: ‎03-10-2010

Re: SHAKESPEARE AND BUBONIC PLAGUE

I thought it was common knowledge that the spear-shaker was not the actor, but a society, i.e., more specifically, Sir Francis Bacon that wrote the plays. Shakespeare, the actor, was quite illiterate, couldn't even sign his name.

@Oznell  Have you ever looked into this? But, interesting to hear of the theatre shut downs.

Honored Contributor
Posts: 14,463
Registered: ‎11-08-2014

Re: SHAKESPEARE AND BUBONIC PLAGUE

Well, @Harpa , interesting,  I believe there's long been controversy, with advocates on both sides, as to the authorship of the plays.  When I listen to them, each side, the "pro-Will-wrote them" and the "anti-Will wrote them"  have interesting and persuasive points to make.  But I didn't think anything's been established definitively-- so until it is, I guess I'll go with Will!