April 3, 1967

A Man With a Fine Talent For Idleness

Author Affiliations

From the Guthrie Clinic Ltd., Sayre, Pa.

JAMA. 1967;200(1):53-55. doi:10.1001/jama.1967.03120140111022

Thirty years ago as a college sophomore intending to study medicine, I enrolled in a course on the English drama. For the inevitable term paper, I found "Medicine in the Modern Drama" a fascinating and rewarding subject. I explored the works of such then well-known playwrights as Ibsen, Shaw, Guitry, Romains, Schnitzler, Kingsley, and Howard. Since there was enough material for a book, I could prune and refine my paper rather than struggle to attain adequate length. That essay constituted my first publication.1

I still regard that first publication with affection. The judgements still seem sound, and there is little that I would change as the result of greater maturity. However, now I can see more clearly that the plays I discussed fall into five distinct categories. Plays for the stage, movies, and television utilize medicine as part of social criticism, or satire, or history, or medical tract, or