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Of interest to lovers of history and literature:

– On April 26, 1564, in the parish register of Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon, the vicar, John Bretchgirdle, recorded the baptism of ‘Gulielmus filius Johannes Shakspere.’ A few months later the vicar noted the death of an apprentice weaver, scribbling in the margins ‘hic incipit pestis’ (here begins the plague). That epidemic took the lives of a fifth of the town. Baby Will Shakespeare and family were spared.

Shakespeare, a shareholder, actor and principal playwright in his company, grappled with these closures. In one five-year period London’s theaters were unlikely to have been open for more than nine months. And yet the plague is rarely mentioned in his plays and poems. Yes, the mortally wounded Mercutio calls ‘A plague on both your houses’ on the feuding Capulets and Montagues, and Lear deems daughter Goneril ‘a plague-sore…in my corrupted blood.’ So no plague play, but we’re glad the Bard dodged the virus and survived to write a few decent dramas. (Part-lifted from the New Yorker, May 2020.)

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