Daniel Pollack-Pelzner’s article “Shakespeare Wrote His Best Works During a Plague” in The Atlantic, March 14, 2020 is a good read. Like the governors of many of our states in this present moment, the officials in 16th century London were concerned about people coming to town to “see certayne stage plays,” gathering in large numbers “close pestered together in small romes,…whereby great infeccion with the plague, or some other infeccious disease, may rise and growe, to the great hynderaunce of the common wealth of this citty.” London closed down the theaters back in that day, just as Broadway has been shut down today.
Religious zealots were present in that day, too. Pelzner quotes an Elizabethan preacher who proclaimed that “the cause of plagues is sin” and “the cause of sin are plays,” then “the cause of plagues are plays.” A modern day Louisiana preacher in a sermon live-streamed on FB, said, “We’re also going to pass out anointed handkerchiefs to people who may have a fear, who may have a sickness and we believe that when those anointed handkerchiefs go, that healing virtue is going to go on them as well.” On March 13, Jerry Falwell Jr., on “Fox & Friends” called the response to Coronavirus “hype” and “overreacting.” “You know,” he said, “impeachment didn’t work, and the Mueller report didn’t work, and Article 25 didn’t work, and so maybe now this is their next, ah, their next attempt to get Trump.” Other religious leaders of the far right denounced the concern about the coronavirus as “fake news”—and that was just a little over two weeks ago.
And there were those back in the 16th century as there are now who were a little slow in getting hold of the situation and asked the simpler questions: “Does anyone know if we can shower yet or just keep washing our hands?”
Like the stripped and beleaguered Monterey Cypress pictured here, we are all feeling terribly alone facing this crisis. We feel stranded on a rocky coast with tempestuous waves about to overwhelm us. There are no anointed handkerchiefs. There is no vaccine. We are separated from family and friends. We are “stuck” in our homes. But we are not alone—everyone else around the world is in this with us. Everyone feels stranded on a rocky coast. Everyone is separated from friends and families. Everyone is stuck. We are in this together and for the long haul. As tough as it is—Stay Home!