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October 3, 1959

Shakespeare and Medicine

JAMA. 1959;171(5):625. doi:10.1001/jama.1959.03010230123030

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This is a fascinating volume. It appears that of the hundreds of so-called authoritative books on Shakespeare only one has dealt with the medical aspects of his writings. That book was written by Dr. John Bucknill and published in 1860. The numerous papers and essays on the subject that followed were based more or less on the information contained in his scholarly book. Simpson, in the present work, cites some 450 major medical references from the plays and poems of Shakespeare. This number, however, does not exhaust the list for, if minor references are included, the list contains over 700 medical references. To illustrate the medical aspects of the plays of the great bard, Simpson presents an analysis of "Romeo and Juliet" and (in another chapter) a study of Falstaff. A further interesting discussion of some of the medical problems raised in the tragedies is presented in a separate chapter.

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