Are Our Skin Worries Shakespeare’s Fault?

William ShakespeareCertain studies have claimed that the great William Shakespeare was the one originally responsible for introducing skin worries to the world. These studies have shown William Shakespeare to have an obsession with perfect skin, particularly due to the fact that London was considered to be a major hotspot for skin diseases at the time. Skin imperfections were generally considered to be warning signs in the old days and a number of examples can be found in Shakespeare’s plays where he fuels the stigma surrounding skin diseases.

If you’re a fan of William Shakespeare, you’ve surely read about some of his most memorable skin insults such as “Never mole, hare-lip nor scar….” as well as curses such as “Thou art a boil, a plague sore…”. Considered to be the master of insults, William Shakespeare was truly at his best when it came to describing the appearance of a character. From words such as “a plague sore” to “foul moles”, his dictionary of insults was literally endless and his sharp tongue played these insults to perfection every single time.

William Shakespeare was recently made a subject of a series of research by scientists from Derby, Nottingham and Leicester. The findings of from this research was revealed to medical specialists at the British Association of Dermatologists Annual Conference. Researchers speculated that Shakespeare’s status of being the best English language writer of all time helped to fuel his obsession with perfect looking skin and spread it among the literate elite across the world.

Traces of Shakespeare’s character descriptions can be found all over his works. A man with a reddish nose has been described as “knight of the burning lamp” in Henry IV, Part I. According to Dr. Catriona Wootton, a dermatologist working at the Queen’s Medical Center in Nottingham, Elizabethan London was considered to be a melting pot for a number of diseases such as smallpox and plague. Dr. Wootton also mentions that many of the diseases during the time had common symptoms such as skin imperfections and sores. As a result, imperfections on the skin began to be commonly associated with contagious diseases. Dr. Wootton further believes that these beliefs were not just limited to infections, but also to moles and blemishes that were considered to be signs of the devil or witchcraft.

Some might argue that Shakespeare actually highlights that the affected individuals are innocent in the Hamlet with lines such as “their virtues else, be they as pure as grace” and “that for some vicious mole of nature in them…. wherein they are not guilty..”; but researchers believe that the iconic writer has also been far less tolerant in his other plays.

On the other hand, a number of medical specialists have also termed the theory as ridiculous. Professor Michael Dobson, director of the Shakespeare Institute of the Birmingham University, feels that it would be ridiculous to believe suggestions that William Shakespeare was responsible for the skin stigma. He counters his argument by stating that no other writer in history has termed skin diseases as attractive.

So what do you think? Was Shakespeare ultimately responsible for the skin stigma and our skin worries? Or is it just ridiculous to suggest so? Where do you think these skin worries and all the hype surrounding them originated from? We would love to hear your opinions.


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