Views & Reviews Between the Lines

Shakespeare on alcohol

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d1789 (Published 23 March 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d1789

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  1. Theodore Dalrymple, writer and retired doctor

Shakespeare knew all about drinking; he liked a drink himself. Indeed, we are told that he died after a drinking session in Stratford with Ben Jonson, though whether from alcohol poisoning, an epidemic brought on by the recent flooding in Stratford, or as a matter of coincidence, we do not know.

Perhaps, then, the scenes enacted in the centre of every British town and city on Friday and Saturday nights would not altogether have surprised him because, as Iago says to Cassio in Othello, “They [the English] are most potent in potting. Your Dane, your German, and your swag-bellied Hollander—drink, ho!—are nothing to your English.”

Cassio, in fact, has a low tolerance for alcohol: “I have very poor and unhappy …

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