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JAMA 100 Years Ago
April 28, 2010

LIGHT ON SHAKESPEARE’S MEDICAL INFORMATION

JAMA. 2010;303(16):1653. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.308

One of the most interesting features of Shakespeare's plays is the amount and variety of information with regard to medicine in his time which they contain. Shakespeare evidently knew the names and uses of many drugs. He mentions aconitum, ginger, camomile, the mints, savory, marjoram, the worts, wormwood and many others. He speaks of “potions of eysell” or vinegar given to ward off infection.1 In “Othello” he mentions two hypnotic drugs;2 and in “Romeo and Juliet” the use of the sleeping-potion suggests anesthesia.3

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