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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

Matula (glass vessel for examining urine)

‘What says the doctor to my water?’ are Falstaff’s worried opening words in Henry IV Part 2 (1.2.1). His page’s response separates the urine from its donor in a way which voices the cynicism of the uro- sceptic: ‘He said, sir, the water itself was a good healthy water, but, for the party that owed it, he might have more diseases than he knew for.’

Clinical medicine and advances in anatomy were undermining the belief in the effectiveness of uroscopy. Gradually, developments in physiology challenged the folkloric supremacy of the traditional healer and uroscopy fell into disrepute.


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