Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Black Death

Yersinia pestis.
These tiny creatures, spread by rats and carried by fleas, caused enormous, incalculable, horrendous devastation around the world. The Bubonic Plague arrived in England in 1348, and it's impossible to overstate its effects. And, no, that isn't hyperbole.

For example, in 1563, 17,000 Londoners died of the plague. That may not sound like too many, but it amounts to 24% of the entire population. I'm sorry, but one out of every four of you reading this blog wouldn't have made it through that year.

In 1593, as Shakespeare was just making a big splash in the London theatre scene, 14% of the population died. In 1603, plague deaths amounted to 23% of the London population.

And those are just the big years! Every year had some plague deaths, and the numbers frequently rose high enough for the authorities to close public gatherings in and around London—and that included the theatres.

It's already beyond belief that Shakespeare produced the number and quality of plays that he did. When the plague is considered, our credulity, already broken, is mashed up into infinitesimal pieces—fragments smaller than the bacterium pictured above. There's simply no way to put Shakespeare into perspective.

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Bardfilm is normally written as one word, though it can also be found under a search for "Bard Film Blog." Bardfilm is a Shakespeare blog (admittedly, one of many Shakespeare blogs), and it is dedicated to commentary on films (Shakespeare movies, The Shakespeare Movie, Shakespeare on television, Shakespeare at the cinema), plays, and other matter related to Shakespeare (allusions to Shakespeare in pop culture, quotes from Shakespeare in popular culture, quotations that come from Shakespeare, et cetera).

Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
All material original to this blog is copyrighted: Copyright 2008-2039 (and into perpetuity thereafter) by Keith Jones.

The very instant that I saw you did / My heart fly to your service; there resides, / To make me slave to it; and, for your sake, / Am I this patient [b]log-man.

—The Tempest