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Home :: Archive :: 2008 :: February ::
Littered Under Mercury
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0066  Monday, 4 February 2008

[1] 	From:	Jennifer Pierce <
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	Date:	Friday, 1 Feb 2008 14:18:03 -0500
	Subj:	RE: SHK 19.0060 Littered Under Mercury

[2] 	From:	Larry Weiss <
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	Date:	Friday, 01 Feb 2008 14:47:58 -0500
	Subj:	Re: SHK 19.0060 Littered Under Mercury


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Jennifer Pierce <
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Date:		Friday, 1 Feb 2008 14:18:03 -0500
Subject: 19.0060 Littered Under Mercury
Comment:	RE: SHK 19.0060 Littered Under Mercury

It's both.

Mercury the liquid metal was so-called because of its connection to the 
planet. The effect of the metal was believed to have the same effect as 
the planet and vice versa. In Renaissance philosophy, all things were 
interconnected and made so by grand design-the VD joke on Mercury 
doesn't have to be posited as an either/or in this context-for 
Shakespeare and his audience the polysemy in the word was not only a 
humorous coincidence. It has intentional meaning on multiple levels and 
thus fits the character in both respects.

Multiple definitions were not just a fun trick of language-it had 
philosophic import and the choice was intentional for comic effect AND 
meaning. That's what makes Will what you Will.

Jennifer Pierce

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Larry Weiss <
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Date:		Friday, 01 Feb 2008 14:47:58 -0500
Subject: 19.0060 Littered Under Mercury
Comment:	Re: SHK 19.0060 Littered Under Mercury

Before we get too excited about the possibility that WS was referring to 
Mercury as a treatment for syphilis, can we find out when that therapy 
was first used? I am under the impression that it was used in the 19 th 
C, either rubbed on the skin or heated to produce fumes which were 
inhaled. In either case, dementia and chronic delirium were common side 
effects, and the syphilitic infection was unaffected. (Milliners were 
notoriously mad as a result of their exposure to Hg used in the 
manufacture of felt.)  Mercury therapy frequently appeared effective, as 
the signs of the disease remitted; but that is the natural history of 
the disease, which often remains dormant for many years until it 
reappears in its lethal tertiary form. Salversan, containing arsenic, 
replaced Hg therapy at the beginning of the 20 th C, but it was not much 
of an improvement although it did have some antibiotic effect.

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