Shakespeare and the Medicinal Good Effects of a Good Wine

A good sherry-sack hath a two-fold operation in it“A good sherris-sack hath a two fold operation in it. It ascends me into the brain; dries me there all the crude, dull and foolish vapours which environ it: makes it apprehensive, quick, forgetive, full of quick, nimble, fiery and delectable shapes; which deliver’d over to the voice (the tongue) which is the birth, becomes excellent wit….”

… to be continued, King Henry IV part 2, act 2, sc. 3

Comment.  Tradition and historical records show  that wine was the first medicine officially declared as such. Wine-making depictions appear in an Egyptian tomb dating about 4000 BC.  Furthermore, the ancients attributed supernatural powers to wine. That wine caused a form of frenzy in the drinker was due to the spirit of the grape entering his body. And the natural association wine-blood, retained in more than one religion  further emphasized the sacrality of wine. Next to the medical are its actual nutritional properties. The naturally fermented juice of grapes, as a dietary liquid, is surpassed only by milk. In this context it never hurts to repeat that all foods are medicines and that many medicines are also food. It is also ancient custom  to add herbs and resins to wine both to enhance its power and to preserve it. The first  recorded “Martini” was  Egyptian, as dozens of herbs to be added to wine are recorded in Egyptian medical papyri. Apart from any other consideration, Falstaff’s extolment of sherry as a prompter of wit and lively oratory has ample justifications. The second property of sherri will be dealt with in another future separate article. In any event, poets have had a grand time with wine in elegantly showing its properties, for example, as a promoter of truth. Browning comes to mind, “Truth that peeps over the glasses’ edge, when dinner ‘s done.” (Bishop Blougram’s Apology)

In the play. Falstaff, redoubtable companion of the young Prince of Wales (the future Henry V) extols the benefits and the effects that a good drink.

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