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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: September ::
Syphilis
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1541  Saturday, 17 September 2005

From: 		Peter Bridgman <
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Date: 		Thursday, 15 Sep 2005 15:38:32 +0100
Subject: 16.1525 Syphilis
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1525 Syphilis

Arnie Perlstein asks about the theory that WS had syphilis.

The idea arises from Sonnets 153 and 154 ...

... a seething bath, which yet men prove
Against strange maladies a soverign cure.
I, sick withal, the help of bath desired,
And thither hied, a sad distempered guest

'Strange maladies' may refer to foreign nasties like the "French pox". 
The 'help of bath' may refer to Bath the town, where hot mineral baths 
were taken for pox relief.  And 'Love's fire heats water' in Sonnet 154 
suggests burning urine.

Sonnets 153 and 154 are two versions of the same poem, the model for 
which was an epigram in the 'Greek Anthology' of 1603.  Ben Jonson owned 
a copy so he might have shown it to WS.  In late September 1603, 
Shakespeare's company performed at Bath.

Peter Bridgman

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