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Author Topic: Did Shakespeare have Syphilis?  (Read 2595 times)

Offline P-Kasso2

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Did Shakespeare have Syphilis?
« on: 23 January, 2018, 01:33:40 PM »

 I was told this the other day when I was asking a friend to help me out with ideas for a charity quiz I am cooking up for the local rugby club.

One thing I wanted were question ideas for a section called 'Books and Writers'. He immediately said "Well, you could have a True or False section - You know, questions like...Did Shakespeare have Syphilis? Yes or No?".

My friend insists that it's True but personally I have absolutely no idea whether Shakespeare had a serious dose of the clap or not.

So is it True or is it False? Did Shakespeare have Syphilis? Yes or No?"   If True then any further details might be interesting to know too.
"I live in hope"

Offline Duffield1

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Re: Did Shakespeare have Syphilis?
« Reply #1 on: 16 April, 2019, 03:11:54 PM »
The answer is that nobody knows!  The evidence suggesting he did includes an increase of mention in his later writings, as well as a signature towards the end of his life which showed signs of a tremor - a common side effect when the disease was treated with mercury.  But this is all circumstantial, according to the Smithsonian Institute, which suggests that exhumation would be the only way to know for sure.

Offline P-Kasso2

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Re: Did Shakespeare have Syphilis?
« Reply #2 on: 19 April, 2019, 12:41:00 PM »
Thank you Duff. So the Smithsonian Institute reckons nobody knows if Shakespeare had a Syphilis or not? Well I am not going to argue with with the mighty Smithsonian over a dose of the clap!

But here's an interesting little bit of trivia..I started wondering how come such a nasty disease got such an exotic almost romantic name?

Seems like medieval kinky Pig Lovers could be part of the reason!

I got this from The Etymology Online website which says that a clever chap called Girolamo Fracastoro who lived from about 1476 to 1553 (and who was as we all know a brainiac Italian physician, poet, and swotty boffin in mathematics, geography and astronomy) is credited with being the very first person to chose to use the name Syphilis for the disease - and why he even chose it is not clearly known.

There's a theory that he chose Syphilus because it is the Latinised name meaning a "Pig-lover"!

However, there are also less juicy theories such as that Syphilus was named after a popular tale at the time of a shepherd called Syphilus, who was supposed to be the first sufferer from the disease.

And then there is another contender because there was a chap called Sipylus (without the 'h') who was the son of Niobe, according to Ovid.

As always with Shakespeare, it seems nothing is certain so you can basically make up any theory you think fits.

I still think the idea of CIS Stratford-upon-Avon exhuming the bard's bones and running a few gene tests would make a blockbuster TV series.

https://www.etymonline.com/search?q=syphilis
« Last Edit: 19 April, 2019, 12:52:45 PM by P-Kasso2 »
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Offline P-Kasso2

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Re: Did Shakespeare have Syphilis?
« Reply #3 on: 09 May, 2020, 04:14:06 PM »
I was wondering how many other great public figures were struck down by syph.

After a quick meander round the internet I found that Syphilis is far from being just the disease of the common man or woman.  Quite the opposite.  Now read on...


Famous painters Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Paul Gaugin and Edouard Manet are known to have died from syphilis.
Joining the list are classic authors Oscar Wilde and Guy de Maupassant.
Lower down the class system are the infamous gangster Al Capone who eventually succumbed to syphilis as well.
Even Shakespeare and Abraham Lincoln are theorised to have had the disease.

Digging into Wiki, we can add the composer Frederick Delius and Karen Blixen who wrote  Out of Africa and was also a Danish Baroness.
Idi Amin also got wiped out by a dose of syph.
And Charles Baudelaire died a less than poetic death with syphilis.
Suspected but not proven to have popped their clogs because of syphilis, we have Leo Tolstoy.
And the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche as well as politicos Vladimir Lenin along with Herr Adolf Hitler.

And I expect the list is much much longer because syhilis isn't exactly something people brag about having, is it?

Sources: https://blog.ochsner.org/articles/what-std-killed-these-historic-figures

and

wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_syphilis_cases
"I live in hope"