An Analysis of Syphilis in Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare

Syphilis In Measure For Measure

Syphilis in Renaissance Europe and in


to venereal disease appear as early in the second scene of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure. Syphilis, the primary and most horrible of venereal diseases, ran rampant in Shakespeare’s time. By giving a brief history of the disease in Renaissance Europe one can gain a better understanding of the disease which will provide greater insight into the play which would have gone unknown. This brief history will include, the severity of the disease in the fifteenth and sixteenth-century Europe, believed origins and symptoms of the period, and methods of curing or combating the disease.

By reading and analyzing passages referring to syphilis in Measure for Measure it is clear that Shakespeare himself believed in most of the truths established by the poet and physician Fracastor. Fracastor was the primary source and influence regarding studies of syphilis in Renaissance Europe.

The disease we now commonly identify as syphilis is believed to have arrived in Europe for the first time in the late fifteenth century.

Though there are few statistics from that period available to prove such an argument, there is plenty of evidence that supports that the disease suddenly emerged in great abundance during this period. It is also believed that syphilis was much more severe then than it has ever been since. 

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An Analysis of Syphilis in Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare. (2022, Aug 11). Retrieved from

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