The Bubonic Plague


It was a golden age! Queen Elizabeth, a strong, powerful leader ruled England
from 1558-1603, a time of remarkable accomplishments. England’s economy prospered,
the Navy defeated the Spanish Armada, explorers claimed new land for the queen, and
music and literature flourished(Runnion, Snow, and Watson 246d). Some of the world’s
greatest writers emerged, including William Shakespeare. While he enjoyed sixteenth
century success and accomplishments, he also survived one of the world’s deadliest
scourges--the Bubonic Plague. Without the widespread epidemic’s impact, one of
Shakespeare’s most famous plays, Romeo and Juliet, may have never become a tragedy.
Where did it begin, and where did it spread? Originating in Central Asia where it
killed over 25 million people, it spread to Mediterranean Ports such as Naples and Venice.
It was in 1348 where this ghastly disease quickly creeped into the depths of Paris. This
specific plague was a type of bacteria called Yersinia pests. It lived on many different
rodents and rats that would bite humans and instantly infect them with this terrifying
bacteria. Symptoms varied depending on how bad the bite was. Sometimes humans
would get something called bubos, painful swellings on the armpits, legs, neck, or groin
area. Besides outer defects, there was also symptoms internally. For an example, victims
would suffer from high fevers, delirium and prostration(Miller and Orr 1). These horrible
years of history will unfortunately always be remembered and expressed in stories, poems,
and famous plays to remind us.
William Shakespeare’s, Romeo and Juliet, shows one example of the bubonic
plague being expressed. This play ended in a tragedy for only one reason, the sickness of
a man. This man wasn’t just any man though, he was supposed to be the one to deliver a
very important message to one of the protagonist, Romeo. This message would inform
him that his sweet Juliet was only in a peaceful rest until he could arrive to find her awake.
The messenger was stricken with this breath taking illness and was unable to deliver a
piece of paper that would change the lives of everyone. Shakespeare was inspired to write
a play like this because of the realization of what was really going on in the world.
It was a time period that no one could or will ever forget. Taking the lives of
millions and leaving families destroyed by the losses of close relatives. Hearts in rest,
souls in pain, bodies damaged, and nothing left but the will to try and fight the hurt. Lives
were changed entirely, and the emotions were expressed throughout the years. William
Shakespeare wrote of a tragedy, a tragedy that was affected by the bubonic plague.