Since the emergence of drama two-and-a-half-millennia ago, the theater’s greatest enemy has always been the plague. It is no coincidence that during the fifth century BCE, as Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides were writing the first great tragedies, Hippocrates was writing the first great medical treatise, called the Epidemics.
Theater, unlike virtually any other art form, requires an audience comprising multiple individuals, while the definition of plague is “a widespread affliction.” To perform a play people must be gathered together, and in order to spread, a plague requires the same kind of human congregation.
William Shakespeare was born in a plague year, 1564, and fortunately, baby Will survived, while two of his siblings did not. His productions, and his theaters, would be shut down quite routinely during plague outbreaks for the rest of his life.
– Stuart Sheppard, Pittsburgh QuarterlyRead full article