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Sunday, 11 November 2012

Shakespeare's Medicine Cabinet discussed at the Dana Centre

@HealthMed: Shakespeare’s Medicine Cabinet was the theme of a packed evening session at the Dana Centre on 8th November. The Dana Centre is funded as joint venture with the Science Museum and Imperial College London, with the aim of bringing together the public with academics and other experts to discuss a wide range of themes.

This evening explored, with the help of the excellent Dana Actors (directed by Silvia Ayguade), facts and fantasy underlying effects of plants as medicines, poisons and aphrodisiacs in Shakespeare’s plays.
Professor Rod Flower FRS selected examples from Macbeth, Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo and Juliet, asking the question whether botanical references were ‘merely dramatic license, or was there a scientific basis for the use of drugs in his plays?’ For example Juliet imploring the Friar:
“… Let me have a dram of poison, such soon-speeding gear 

As will disperse itself through all the veins 

That the life-weary taker may fall dead …”
And the Friar’s offer of a specific death-mimicking toxin to last ‘… two and forty hours …’
The interval was spiced with the opportunity provided by the British Pharmacological Society organisers to sample some of the healthier plants mentioned, including an interesting Heartsease floral tea – the plant referred to as ‘love-in-idleness' by King Oberon in Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Dr Randolph Arroo, Head of Research at the School of Pharmacy in Leicester, went on to discuss the interface between plants and medicines in the second Elizebethan Age.
His comments on reliability of plant sources and earlier issues raised by Professor Flower were echoed in the discussion points raised by a very engaged and informed audience.
For more see the Dana Centre website
and the website of co-organiser the British Pharmacological Society.

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