16th Century Plague, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Microbiology

That Shakespeare Life


Plague is the horrible sickness that reoccurs throughout the life of William Shakespeare, and many listeners will know that plague is to blame for several closings of playhouses around London throughout the 16-17th century. However, what does that word mean, precisely? What symptoms did people have when afflicted with plague, and how was it transmitted from person to person? The play Romeo and Juliet offers some evidence of plague responses when we see the messenger detained by confinement in a plague house, but our guest this week shares that there were some much more surprising—and dangerous— remedies utilized in cities like London, including canon fire, to try and prevent spread of plague. To better understand what plague is, how it was treated in the 16-17th century, what the medical community understood (and didn’t) about microorganisms, and why in the world shooting off canons in the city was considered an essential part of plague prevention, we have invited our guest, and author of “Medicine and Society in Early Modern Europe” for Cambridge University Press, Dr. Mary Lindemann to the show today, to answer these questions.  Get bonus episodes on Patreon

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