Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Measure For Measure Essays - Syphilis, , Term Papers

Measure For Measure References to venereal disease appear as early in the second scene of Shakespeare's Measure for Measure. Syphilis, the primary and most horrible of venereal diseases, ran rampant in Shakespeare's time. By giving a brief history of the disease in Renaissance Europe one can gain a better understanding of the disease which will provide a greater insight into the play which would have gone unknown. This brief history will include, the severity of the disease in fifteenth and sixteenth century Europe, believed origins and symptoms of the time period, and methods of curing or combating the disease.. By reading and analyzing passages referring to syphilis in Measure for Measure it is clear that Shakespeare himself believed in most of the truths established by the poet and physician Fracastor. Fracastor was the primary source and influence regarding studies of syphilis in Renaissance Europe. The disease we now commonly identify as syphilis is believed to have arrived in Europe for the first time in the late fifteenth century. Though there are few statistics from that period available to prove such an argument, there is plenty of evidence that supports that the disease suddenly emerged in great abundance during this time period. It is also believed that syphilis was much more severe then, than it has ever been since. Zinsser writes in his book, Rats, Lice, and History that: "There is little doubt that when syphilis first appeared in epidemic form, at the beginning of the sixteenth century, it was a far more virulent, acute, and factual condition than it is now (Rosebury 23)." The first time syphilis, called evil pocks at the time, was mentioned in print occurred on August 7, 1495 in the Edict of the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian. In this document syphilis was believed to be a punishment sent from God for blasphemy and was described as something "which had never occurred before nor been heard of within the memory of man (Rosebury 24)." Between the years 1495 and 1498 there were a total of nine similar documents that emerged through out Western Europe. In 1530 Fracastor, a poet and physician, published the poem, Syphilis sive Morbus Gallicus, translated "Syphilis or the French Disease." The main character was a shepherd in Hispaniola named Syphilis. Syphilis caught the disease for disrespecting the Gods. At the time Fracastor believed in the previous documents, but would provide his own original ideas concerning how the disease reached Europe. He also alluded to possible treatments, that Shakespeare will later use in his plays. Fracastor used the name "syphilis" for both the main character and the disease he contracted. However, the name of the disease continued to be known as "the French disease." It was not until the 1850's, more than three centuries after Fracastor's poem, that the disease was called"syphilis." Fracastor's poem grew widely popular in Western Europe, and was believed to be mostly factual at the time. It might seem odd that a fictional poem with fictional characters would be widely regarded as truth, but under the extreme circumstances of the sixteenth century syphilis epidemic it makes perfect sense. Syphilis had caused terror in the hearts of the people in the sixteenth century due to its rapid spread. Physicians seemed helpless to cure it. No one could do anything, but believe in what Fracastor wrote. In the poem Fracastor had answers concerning its origin, symptoms, and cure for this new disease. He went along with the common belief that it appeared in the French army before Naples around the year 1495. "From France, and justly took from France his name, (Rosebury 31)." This quote provides the evidence concerning syphilis' former name, "The French Disease." He also discussed how he believed that it originated in America, and was brought back with Columbus and his men. This was the popular view of the day, and many researchers still find truth in it. What Fracastor truly believed, at the time, was that the positions of the planets influenced the outbreak of the disease. He believed that they lined up in such a way that provided great conditions for the emergence of the disease. In the poem Fracastor also states that the disease had very often a"extra-genital origin (Rosebury 34)." An observation he will later discuss further. He also goes on to discuss possible treatments that became popular in the sixteenth century, which also appeared in some of Shakespeare's plays. He recommends to get plenty of exercise, and to avoid wine and fish. He also includes using mercury, a very popular method of controlling

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