William Shakespeare was born in 1564 during one of several outbreaks of the bubonic plague that killed about a quarter of the population of Stratford-upon-Avon, his hometown. Supposedly, he survived because his parents locked themselves in their house. But three of Shakespeare’s sisters and his brother are thought to have been among the plague victims.
When he was working in London, from about 1585 to 1612, additional outbreaks occurred. The Globe Theatre and other playhouses were forced to close in order to slow the spread of the disease. Many people went broke. Players, theatergoers, and hundreds of ordinary citizens died during …
This article appears as “What’s in a Name?” in the September 7, 2020, print edition of National Review.
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