Shakespeare on pain


Which witch did I piss off?
Which witch did I piss off?

One of the most ridicules aspects of aging is how easily one can become injured doing little more than breathing. Was there never a story of more woe than of Juliet and her Romeo? Yes, yes there is; try waking up with back spasms for no apparent reason!

It’s May Day and I should be out in the garden putting bird food in the feeders and staging my garden gnomes for another season of merriment, but instead I’m hobbling around the house as if I were a ninety-two year old invalid. Seriously, who wakes up with back spasms for no reason??

It’s almost comical the thoughts that go through my head when I’m in pain. The pain was so intense this morning that I considered a trip to urgent care, but that led me to contemplating a shower as there was no way I was leaving the house without washing my hair. I’ve learned my lesson; the last time I went to the emergency room I ended up having heart surgery and wasn’t allowed a shower for 6 days. The one obsessive thought I had while recovering was that I really should have taken a shower before I left the house.

Being that’s it’s #ShakespeareSunday my thoughts turned towards the Bard. And as I was attempting to pull myself up from a seated position I found myself wondering if Shakespeare every suffered from back pain? Did he ever get stiff and sore after a day of writing? He must have. Maybe that’s why he retired, he couldn’t take the back pain anymore. I can’t say as I would blame him.

Musing about Shakespeare’s back pain led me down a rabbit hole of thoughts about pain. More specifically, how Shakespeare used the word to convey its many meanings.

I’d love to sit here and give you a well thought out essay on Shakespeare’s use of the word pain, but given that it is clear that I will be of no use to anyone today, I thought I would let the man speak for himself.

I give you 8 Shakespeare quotes about pain.

A wretched soul, bruised with adversity,
We bid be quiet when we hear it cry;
But were we burdened with like weight of pain,
As much or more would we ourselves complain.           Comedy of Errors

If thou be’st death, I’ll give thee England’s treasure,
Enough to purchase such another island,
So thou wilt let me live, and feel no pain.                      Henry VI Part II
When grief hath mates, and bearing fellowship.
How light and portable my pain seems now.                  King Lear

Why, all delights are vain; but that most vain,
Which with pain purchased doth inherit pain                 Love’s Labor’s Lost

The labour we delight in physics pain.
This is the door.                                                                Macbeth

Tut, man, one fire burns out another’s burning,
One pain is lessen’d by another’s anguish.                   Romeo & Juliet

Lest sorrow lend me words and words express
The manner of my pity-wanting pain.                           Sonnet 140

If my slight Muse do please these curious days,
The pain be mine, but thine shall be the praise.           Sonnet 38

Author: sarij

I'm a writer, lifelong bibliophile ,and researcher. I hold a Bachelors in Humanities & History and a Master's in Humanities. When I'm not reading or talking about Shakespeare or history, you can usually find me in the garden discussing science or politics with my cat.

One thought on “Shakespeare on pain”

  1. I’ve never woken up with back pain, but once in my early thirties woke up with a viral infection that made my neck and shoulders so stiff, there was only ONE position that was comfortable: sitting in an easy chair, my head and neck propped precariously on an arrangement of pillows that had to be precisely aligned for someone who could outdo the princess and the pea in sensitivity. All I was able to do that day was watch cable TV. It’s the only reason I saw a movie called “Nice Girls Don’t Explode.”


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