Classics While Working From Home: Corona Notes

As most of us stuck at home due to self-isolation or working from home, watching  Facebook videos and stumbling through social media jungle. There is a meme going around claiming Shakespeare wrote King Lear during his isolation from the Great Plague.

Classics Created Working From home: Corona Notes
‘The Dreadful Plague in London’. Photograph: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

As a child, he was lucky to survive the plague. Stratford-upon-Avon, where he lived, was infected by a huge outbreak in the summer of 1564. A few months after he was born a large percentage of the town’s population died.

King Lear

It’s long been thought that Shakespeare turned to poetry when the plague closed the theaters in 1593. That’s when he published his popular narrative poem, Venus and Adonis. when the theatres were closed for nearly six months, Shakespeare turned to poetry: his long narrative poems Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece were both composed during this time

Later that year, he churned out King LearMacbeth, and Antony and Cleopatra.

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Shakespeare mentions the plague in several plays, including The Tempest (1.2.426), Timon of Athens (4.3.120), and King Lear.

But yet thou art my flesh, my blood, my daughter;
Or rather a disease that’s in my flesh,
Which I must needs call mine: thou art a boil,
A plague-sore, an embossed carbuncle,
In my corrupted blood.

(2.4.242), Lear, describing his daughter, Goneril

Classics While Working From Home: Corona Notes

Origins of “Ring around the rosy” Rhyme connected with the plague

Classics Created Working From home: Corona Notes
Illustration to ring-a-ring-a-roses in Kate Greenaway’s Mother Goose, taken from the Project Gutenberg version 1881

Common British versions include:

Ring-a-ring o’ roses,
A pocket full of posies,
A-tishoo! A-tishoo!
We all fall down.

The words to the Ring around the rosy children’s ring game have their origin during the Great Plague of London in 1665 or even before when the first outbreak of the Plague hit England.


The symptoms of the plague included a rosy red rash in the shape of a ring on the skin. Pockets and pouches were filled with sweet-smelling herbs ( or flowers) due to the belief that the disease was transmitted by bad smells. The term “Ashes Ashes” refers to the cremation of the dead bodies! The death rate was over 60%. The English version of “Ring around the rosy” replaces Ashes with (A-tishoo, A-tishoo) as sneezing was another symptom of the disease.

Classics Created Working From home: Corona Notes

Classics While Working From Home: Corona Notes

Still, while you’re under self-isolation or a lockdown, take time for yourself and fight any anxieties that come up. If possible, stop watching all the bad news all the time. Wash your hands. Find some time to be productive and peaceful, other than the job you have!

And again, try to stay away from people.

Look out of your window and maybe.

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