I mention in another post that my brother in law shared with me his newly acquired Shakespeare knowledge, that our beloved bard drank “contaminated water” and died 30 days later. Of all the stories I’ve heard, I’ve never heard that one. Unless he was mixing contaminated water with his alcohol.
Since this is the big anniversary of his death, it’s nice that others are doing the work to recap the details are Shakespeare’s death. Basically we know that he was out drinking a few days before, and carried home. Was this a normal occurrence? Plenty of people get carried home drunk and they don’t die. Was Shakespeare already sick and would have been dead anyway, and the drinking thing is just a coincidence where he happens to have been seen by witnesses? We’ll never really know.
I did not see the television special that my brother in law was referring to, and I wouldn’t really be surprised to discover that contaminated water was generally a problem for everybody in a world of black plague. But would it have sickened and killed him almost immediately? I would assume that if it was that common to drop dead that easily from contaminated water, surely the historians of the last 400 years might have thought of that as well. And like I said, I’ve never heard that theory. It’s far more common to hear people suggest that he had syphilis.