Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A Plague ‘O Both Your Houses!

“A plague o' both your houses! I am sped…
“A plague o' both your houses!
"They have made worms' meat of me.”
- Mercutio, Romeo & Juliet Act III Scene I. by William Shakespeare

In the last three years, I’ve been very fortunate in my health. With the exception of a brief stint with the norovirus two years ago, I’ve been able to shorten most of my colds to last under two weeks.

At the end of October, I got a particularly nasty version of the common cold that involves a sore throat, stuffy nose, and cough. But compared to what I’m used to getting it took me by surprise enough to speculate something serious.

During my self-imposed isolation, I worked from home four days in a row to avoid spreading the cold to my coworkers. During this self-imposed exile, I understandably started going a bit crazy and began referring to my cold as “the plague,” which led myself to exclaim “A plague ‘o both your houses” per Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet.

Despite my melodramatic statement (or rather, because of) my next thought went from Romeo & Juliet to the plague in general, and then specifically the Bubonic Plague that struck Europe from 1346-1353. Funny how my mind is never more than four or five steps from a historical reference.

Most of us have learned about the Black Death. Formally known as the Bubonic Plague, the disease spread from flea to rat to human that originated in Asia. When the disease came to Europe in the 14th Century it’s estimated that between 75 and 200 million people died by the end.

The topic of the Black Death is a huge one, but here are some things I find the most interesting about the Black Death:
  1. Nobody was safe - whether you were a peasant or a King, the Bubonic Plague struck
  2. It’s estimated that one-third of the population died as a result of this disease
  3. The entire class system across Europe was turned on its head.

I think this whole topic deserves a bit more attention, which I plan to give it! That and this entire blog to be honest - I’m aware that I’ve been horrible at keeping this updated, so I am hoping to bring this back in 2017 - probably with shorter and more succinct posts.

Happy History!