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Shakespeare Connected - ‘The natural gates and alleys of the body’ (Hamlet, 1.5.67): Physicality, Hygiene and Bodily Waste in Shakespeare’s World

Arthur Hopton - A Concordancy of Yeares (Printed for the Company of Stationers, 1616). Illustration of page 26 – headed ‘The Anatomy of Man’s Body’

Physicians had to ensure that medical treatments coincided with the most propitious time in the calendar. Hopton’s almanac warns that Gemini is a ‘bad signe to bleed under’ and cautions that the phlebotomist ought to be aware of ‘how it is with the Patient inwardly, for his complection and age, and outwardly for the time of the yeare, time of the month, day and diet.’

Richard II is clearly aware of this medical schedule, insisting that Mowbray and Hereford’s trial by combat be postponed, ‘Forget, forgive, conclude, and be agreed; / Our doctors say this is no time to bleed’ (1.1.156-7).


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