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November 19, 1960


JAMA. 1960;174(12):1633-1634. doi:10.1001/jama.1960.03030120073020

The plays of Shakespeare (1564-1616), whether composed by the Bard of Avon or an unidentified genius, as claimed by some, are as rich in medical references as in legal statements, moral philosophy, or coeval commonsense. According to Robert Simpson, there are more than 400 major and 300 minor references to medical subjects in the total works of Shakespeare.1 The first comprehensive discussion of medicine in Shakespeare was prepared by John Buckmill and published in 1860. Other communications since then have either plagiarized extensively on Buckmill or have been less pretentious monographs. Simpson has carried on a century later and has interpreted the many references to medicine in a contemporary environment. Equally important has been the attempt to avoid repetitive errors and false interpretations that tend to be passed on from generation to generation without critical verification. Every effort has been made to straighten the record.

Shakespeare was prone to