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TOPIC: Shakespeare's death

Shakespeare's death 8 months 3 weeks ago #7387

  • Steve Minkin
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The prevailing story is that Will died following a night of drinking with Ben Jonson and the poet Michael Drayton. The source appears to be an entry in the diary of John Ward, the vicar of Holy Trinity Church in Stratford (where Shakespeare is buried) "Shakespeare, Drayton, and Ben Jonson had a merry meeting and it seems drank too hard, for Shakespeare died of a fever there contracted."

However, Ward wrote this 50 years later, so the story is often dismissed as a fabrication.
There was a typhus epidemic raging at the time.
Biographer of Dr. John Hall, C. Martin Mitchell, found shadings in the Droeshout frontispiece of the First Folio that suggest to him that Will was susceptible to a cerebral hemorrhage.

Any thoughts on the subject? His death at 52 (his father made it to 70) provokes questions.
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Shakespeare's death 8 months 3 weeks ago #7389

  • Geoff Williamson
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Mitchell's book being out of print, would you possibly mind describing the details of what Mitchell's claim is actually about? i.e. what shadings in particular and what medical condition this suggests to him?
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Shakespeare's death 8 months 3 weeks ago #7390

  • Steve Minkin
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My source is the website: www.shakespeare-online.com/biography/deathofshakespeare.html

>>C. Martin Mitchell, in his insightful biography of Shakespeare's physician and son-in-law, Dr. John Hall, presents the following hypothesis: "I have formed the opinion that it was more likely than not in the nature of a cerebral hemorrhage or apoplexy that quickly deepened and soon became fatal. There are three reasons for this. Firstly, the hurried reconstruction and inter-lineated clauses of the Will not allowing time for it to be copied afresh before signature; Secondly, the earliest and clearest impressions of the Droeshout frontispiece of the First Folio show outstanding shadings, suggesting marked thickening of the left temporal artery– a sign of atheroma and arterio-sclerosis; and thirdly, such a termination is quite common in men who have undergone such continuous mental and physical strain over a prolonged period as our actor-manager-dramatist must have been subjected to throughout his, undoubtedly, strenuous career. Richard Burbage who daily shared the same theatrical life, himself died of such a seizure after twenty-four hours illness [in 1619]" (Mitchell, 79).<<
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Shakespeare's death 8 months 3 weeks ago #7391

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Thanks Steve for the reference to that quote. It is an interesting piece of speculation, but I think Mitchell's faith in the accuracy of the Droeshout engraving seems a tad unwarranted in light of the other anatomical inaccuracies elsewhere in it. I think the commentator gets it right - "Unfortunately, Shakespeare's death at the age of fifty-two will almost surely remain a mystery".

Perhaps he was poisoned by his wife Anne out of bitterness for all the years he had left her husbandless! Second best bed...pffft!
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