The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1559 Monday, 19 September 2005
Date: Sunday, 18 Sep 2005 08:44:42 -0400
Subject: Re Syphilis
Peter wrote: " 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."
That is very interesting as well! Are your two interpretations of
Sonnets 153 and 154 (both that they allude to syphilis and also that
they are derived from that epigram) original to you? Can you quote in
full the epigram in the 'Greek Anthology' that you refer to?
I will have a look at those Sonnets in the meanwhile.
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