Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0008. Tuesday, 4 January 1994.
From: Hirch Schipper <
Date: Monday, 03 Jan 94 21:12:16 EST
Subject: SHAKESPEARE'S ILLNESS
Thanks to William Godshalk for calling attention to Levin's book in regards to
Syhlock and the Christian society. Indeed the origin of and the stimulus for my
writing stemmed from the Merchant. However, I have just finished Ian Wilson's
"Shakespeare : The Evidence" and would not have ended the article as I did.
From consideration of Shakespeare's signatures on the Belott-Mountjoie
deposition, the Blackfriars Gatehouse conveyance and mortgage, and his will,
the deduction is made that he suffered of scrivener's palsy or writer's cramp.
As a physician, I know something about that condition which is psychosomatic
and occurs in younger persons. To me the writing appears to be of a person
suffering of Parkinson's disease. This condition is much more common than
writer's palsy, is a progressive degenerative neurological disease, occuring
often in persons of late middle age, and also determines a blank facies as we
see on Shakespeare's mortuary sculpture. The condition is slowly and
unrelentingly progressive, is subjective in that patients know that they are
ill, and thus are often impressed to make their wills. The illness could well
have started to afflict Shakespeare before he wrote his last play, Henry VIII,
in association with John Fletcher, perhaps to releive him of the difficulties
of writing. Shakespeare's diagnosis was immersed in the general category of
senility and debility. It makes no difference whether he had writer's cramp or
Parkinson's, although the former would not affect his general condition. Still,
it is sad to contemplate that possibly Shakespeare's life was cut short at the
height of his abilities by Parkinson's disease.
Happy new year Hirsh