Quotes on the Black Death

3 minutes to read | Updated for 2018

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“Neither physicians nor medicines were effective. Whether because these illnesses were previously unknown or because physicians had not previously studied them, there seemed to be no cure. There was such a fear that no one seemed to know what to do. When it took hold in a house, it often happened that no one remained who had not died. And it was not just that men and women died, but even sentient animals died. Dogs, cats, chickens, oxen, donkeys, and sheep showed the same symptoms and died of the same disease. And almost none, or very few, who showed these symptoms, were cured. The symptoms were the following: a bubo in the groin, where the thigh meets the trunk; or a small swelling under the armpit; sudden fever; spitting blood and saliva (and no one who spat blood survived it). It was such a frightful thing that when it got into a house, as was said, no one remained. Frightened people abandoned the house and fled to another.”
-Marchione di Coppo Stefani

“It struck me very deep this afternoon going with a hackney coach from my Lord Treasurer’s down Holborne, the coachman I found to drive easily and easily, at last stood still, and came down hardly able to stand, and told me that he was suddenly stuck very sick, and almost blind, he could not see. So I ‘light and went into another coach with a sad heart for the poor man and trouble for myself lest he should have been struck with the plague, being at the end of town that I took him up; But God have mercy upon us all!”
-S. Pepys

“Realizing what a deadly disaster had come to them, the people quickly drove the Italians from their city. However, the disease remained, and soon death was everywhere. Fathers abandoned their sick sons. Lawyers refused to come and make out wills for the dying. Friars and nuns were left to care for the sick, and monasteries and convents were soon deserted, as they were stricken, too. Bodies were left in empty houses, and there was no one to give them a Christian burial.”
-Unknown

“It was dark before I could get home, and so land at Churchyard stairs, where to my great trouble I met a dead (corpse) of the plague in the narrow ally just bringing down a little pair of stairs.”
-S. Pepys

“How many valiant men, how many fair ladies, breakfast with their kinfolk and the same night supped with their ancestors in the next world! The condition of the people was pitiable to behold. They sickened by the thousands daily, and died unattended and without help. Many died in the open street, others dying in their houses, made it known by the stench of their rotting bodies. Consecrated churchyards did not suffice for the burial of the vast multitude of bodies, which were heaped by the hundreds in vast trenches, like goods in a ships hold and covered with a little earth.”
-Giovanni Boccaccio

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