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August 21, 1987

The Medical Mind of Shakespeare

Author Affiliations

Sherman, Ill

Sherman, Ill


by Aubrey C. Kail, 320 pp, with illus, $49.95, Baltimore, Williams & Wilkins, 1986.

JAMA. 1987;258(7):969. doi:10.1001/jama.1987.03400070107046

It is unlikely that any other single author has been as thoroughly scrutinized as William Shakespeare. His collection of works has been examined and dissected from multiple perspectives, including law, history, and even botany. It is not surprising, then, that Shakespeare's medical knowledge has generated a large body of literature and considerable speculation. The most recent contribution to this growing area of study is The Medical Mind of Shakespeare.

The use of medical concepts in Shakespearean literature has been extensively discussed in a myriad of journal articles ranging from orthopedics to obstetrics to dermatology. More extensive commentary includes Bucknill's The Medical Knowledge of Shakespeare (1860) and Simpson's Shakespeare and Medicine (1959). In his book, Simpson has identified more than 700 minor and major medical references in the plays and poems of the Bard of Avon. Kail's The Medical Mind of Shakespeare successfully continues this exploration of literary and medical themes.