Imatges de pÓgina

is beyond what professional faith can allow to intuitive genius alone. If he did not, indeed, study medicine and surgery, we must agree, with Pope, that "he gives ground for a new opinion, that the philosopher, and even the man of the world, may be born such, as well as the poet."

The medical profession has undoubtedly furnished some geniuses of the first order; but it would be a grand acquisition to identify a doctor in our immortal bard! We should be proud to hail him as a surgeon; the Apothecaries' Company, and the general practitioners, would probably be equally anxious to prefer their claims.

- The history of Shakspeare's life, however, does not give us any reason to believe that he was otherwise connected with the medical profession, than by having a medical son-in-law (Hall.) Whether he profited by this connexion or not, we cannot tell; but we have as little ground to imagine that Hall was of use to Shakspeare by his medical talents, as we have that Shakspeare assisted Hall; and yet, the intimate knowledge displayed by "the bard of Avon" in physic and surgery, pharmacy and physiology, leads to the conclusion, that he must have acquired his medical notions from practical experience.

With singular felicity and discernment, he hits upon the particular point on which a medical or surgical argument would turn it does not appear that he ever walked the hospitals; yet I can hardly conceive that the ordinary walks of life would furnish means for describing symptoms, as he does, with the technicality of Warren. He might challenge Sir Henry Halford, to define with greater accuracy the type of febrile exacerbations; and so nice is his discrimination, that, with the correctness of a clinical lecturer, he notices an intermittent fever passing into a continued form, and makes a "quotidian tertian," and "delirium tremens," end the life of Sir John Falstaff, whose nose (as in such cases) became "sharp as a pen." (Hen. V. act ii. sc. i.)

With hypercritical acumen, he makes a distinction between distemper, and disease. In using the latter word, it is always applied to malady, or deadly sickness.

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And with our surfeiting and wanton hours
Have brought ourselves into a burning fever.

When, on the other hand, he uses the former word, it is lightly touched, as,

Little faults proceeding on distemper.-Hen. Vi mi And in Henry IV.

'Tis but a body yet distempered.

Concerning hysterics, there is another practical refinement in Lear, act ii." Oh, how this Mother," &c. by which application of the term he evinces a belief, that this affection was not peculiar to women, but common also to men ; a doctrine entertained by the best medical authorities of that period.

What modern physiologist could give a more correct representation of the relative conditions of the organs of circulation than he does, where he describes the phenomena which they present in the gasps of mortal agony, when the blood, for the last time, has retreated to its citadel ?

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Oft have I seen a timely parted ghost,

Of ashy semblance, meagre, pale, and bloodless,
Being all descended to the labouring heart,
Who, in the conflict that it holds with death,

Attracts the same for aidance 'gainst the enemy;

Which, with the heart, there cools, and ne'er returns:T'S
To blush and beautify the cheek again.

Sympathies he understood as well as Kenelm Digby; and how well he comprehended the influence of the mind upon the body, is demonstrated by that masterly scene in which Henry VIII. hands over some papers, of no very agreeable import, to Cardinal Wolsey :-" Read this, and this,-and after, this, and then, to breakfast with what appetite you may." Abernethy could not have put it more pithily! Here was a touch upon the gastric nerves, with whose effect on digestion he was well acquainted, as also that produced upon the faculties by gross feeding; he knew how uncongenial gastronomic and literary pursuits must ever be

Fat paunches make lean pates, and grosser bitstek
Make rich the ribs, but bankerout the wits.

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And, for this reason, he invariably abstained from composition when he retired to aldermanic fare at Stratford..

Then again, how ably and beautifully does he delineate the effects of suppressed mental emotions:

She never told her love,

But let concealment, like a worm i' th' bud,
Feed on her damask cheek.

And, in the same tone, in another place:

To keep it from divulging, let it feed

E'en on the pith of life.

Nor was he ignorant of idiosyncrasies, or constitutional peculiarities:

Some men there are, love not a gaping pig;
Some that are mad, if they behold a cat-
for affection,

Master of passion, sways it to the mood
Of what it likes, or loathes.

When he asks, whether the doctor can

Minister to a mind diseased,

and evinces, in mental aberrations, his want of faith in physic, he only acts according to the opinion of his contemporaries—it is no proof of ignorance, for in other places he shews an intimate acquaintance with many of the leading features of the distempered mind, particularly the increase of muscular strength :

My limbs,

Enraged with grief,

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Are thrice themselves.-Henry IV. Part 2. act in mod His tact in symptomatology, is evinced in the following: description of the febrile paroxysm of an intermittent:

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He had a fever when he was in Spain,
And when the fit was on him, I did mark
How he did shake: 'tis true, this god did shake;
His.coward lips did from their colour fly,
And that same eye whose bend doth awe the world,
Did lose its lustre. I did hear him groan;
Ay, and that tongue of his, that bade the Romans
Mark him, and write his speeches in their books,
Alas! it cried, Give me some drink, Titinius, ...
As a sick girl.-Julius Cæsar, act i. scene ii.

"Now, let us look to his surgical pretensions, and we shall find strong symptoms indicative of a minute knowledge of


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anatomy, and surgery. Take, for instance, his repeated reference to the pia-mater*, and his notice of the epidedimis. How honestly does he admit the impossibility of curing scrophula, when he describes those affected by it, as

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And, from the manner in which he sneers at the rubbers and thumbers, we may conclude, he would not have been a subscriber to modern quackery. His contempt for charlatanerie seems proportional to his scientific knowledge of surgery; indeed, he was fully informed of the use of the lancet and cautery: "We do lance diseases in our bodies," says he; and in Timon of Athens, act v. scene iii., actually speaks of "cauterizing the root of the tongue;" and cicatrice, a technical term, is of frequent occurrence. Podagram and chiragram, he also speaks of, and what has jocosely been designated hip-agram, he correctly calls sciatica-(Measure for Measure); and who, out of an hospital, ever heard such a list of surgical diseases, as Thersites runs over to Patroclus? (Troil. and Cressida.)

In numerous instances, he seems giving a prognosis. “This apoplexy will certainly be his end!" (Hen. IV. act i. scene ii.) Sir Astley Cooper could not be more positive, nor could he describe it more appropriately than by the words in Coriolanus, "A very apoplexy,-lethargy, mulled, deaf, sleepy, insensible;" and there is no doubt that when, in Othello, he states, that " My Lord hath fallen into an epilepsy," (act iv. scene i.) he could, had it been necessary, have defined that extraordinary disease with equal accuracy; for even such as result from sedentary occupations did not escape him, as he • Pia mater, Troil. and Cressid., act ii. scene i., and Twelfth Night, act i. scene v.


We may not be so credulous of cure,

When our most learned doctors leave us; and

The congregated college have concluded,
That labouring art can never ransom nature
From her unaidable estate. We must not
So stain our judgment, or corrupt our hope,

To prostitute our past-cure malady

To empirics.-All's Well that ends Well, act ii,

Ant. and Cleop. act ii. scene i.

unequivocally states, that "universal plodding, prisons up the nimble spirits in the arteries*." (Love's Labour Lost, act iv. scene iii.) Or had he studied the chylepoietic doctrines of our times, could he have given a more decided touch of practical experience, than the following remark in Coriolanus? "Your affections are a sick man's appetite, which most desires what would increase the evil."

His knowledge of the liver is evinced in many instances ; and in Love's Labour Lost he speaks of the "liver vein," in allusion to the ancient notion of its being the seat of love. The "red plague," which Caliban so kindly wishes may seize upon Prospero, was another term for erysipelas. And when he speaks of serpigo, he distinguishes the "dry serpigo❞— "Now, the dry serpigo on the subject f." From these critical niceties, his remarks on stewed prunes, and some hints about the tub-fast, it is clear that he had studied Master William Clowes's Surgery. And, although he does not use the modern term, "morbid poison," perhaps thinking all poisons morbid, or some other reason, yet, from his joke about a French-crown §, his equivoque on the corona veneris, and the manner in which he alludes to the devouring powers of the "goujeers," it is evident that he understood the actions of animal, as well as vegetable and mineral, poisons. He would have split a straw-argument with John Hunter or Dr. Adams, on yaws or sivvens, discussed the pseudo with Abernethy, and defined phagedena with the accuracy of Celsus. Of the sweating-sickness, and the proposed remedies, he was perfectly master: there is abundant proof that he was equally versed in the symptoms of leprosy; and it is more than probable that he knew the difference between the Cochin leg, and the elephantiasis of Aretæus.

How minutely he was acquainted with the paraphernalia of surgery, is curiously exhibited in the quibble on the word "tent:"-bring in the surgeon's box, or the patient's


The system of physic of those days gave to the arteries the office now given to the nerves, as the derivation of the word implies, dega rngsïv. + Troil, and Cressid., act ii. scene iii.

First Part of Hen. IV.

§ Measure for Measure.

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