How Did the Black Plague Affect Shakespeare?

The Black Plague affected William Shakespeare by closing the London theaters where his plays were performed. The disease also killed many of Shakespeare’s family members including his only son.

William Shakespeare was greatly affected by the Black or Bubonic Plague early on in his life. It killed many members of his family when he was young, including three sisters and a brother. This caused Shakespeare to have a lifelong fear of the disease. Furthermore, the disease killed his son Hamnet at 11 years of age in 1596.

The Black Plague also affected Shakespeare financially. Every time there was an outbreak, the theaters where Shakespeare acted and his plays were performed closed. This occurred three times during Shakespeare’s life in 1593, 1603 and 1608. All three times many fellow actors and acquaintances of Shakrespeare died.

Shakespeare was also inspired by literature written because of the Black Plague. For example, “The Decameron” was a book about some men and women who took refuge in a villa in the country to avoid catching the plague. The book is divided into stories that the characters tell each other while waiting out the disease. Shakespeare based aspects of his plays “Cymbeline,” “Merchant of Venice” and “All’s Well that Ends Well” on stories from “The Decameron.”