Dr. John Ross:

The only medical fact known about Shakespeare with certainty is that his final signatures show a marked tremor. Compared to other Elizabethans, Shakespeare had an unhealthy obsession with syphilis. D. H. Lawrence wrote, “I am convinced that some of Shakespeare’s horror and despair, in his tragedies, arose from the shock of his consciousness of syphilis.”

According to contemporary gossip, Shakespeare was not only notoriously promiscuous, but was also part of a love triangle in which all three parties contracted venereal disease. The standard Elizabethan treatment for syphilis was mercury; as the saying goes, “a night with Venus, a lifetime with Mercury.” Mercury’s more alarming adverse effects include drooling, gum disease, personality changes, and tremor. (In the eighteenth century, mercury was used in the manufacture of felt hats, leading to the expressions “hatter’s shakes” and “mad as a hatter”). Did Shakespeare’s writing career end prematurely due to side effects of mercury treatment?

Milton, the Bronte sisters, Melville, Yeats, Joyce and Orwell — How disease may have infected your favorite books

UPDATE: Here’s tonight’s debate
For the first time since 1977, no Pulitzer Prize for fiction was awarded this year when none of the three finalists won a majority of a jury’s vote. Best-selling authors Ann Patchett and Lev Grossman speak with Jeffrey Brown about the integrity of the judging process and the Pulitzers’ power as a sales tool for booksellers.

—-
Watch it go down at 6:44* p.m. ET (live stream here) as we discuss why there was no Pulitzer winner for fiction this year. 
(More on other winners here)

UPDATE: Here’s tonight’s debate

For the first time since 1977, no Pulitzer Prize for fiction was awarded this year when none of the three finalists won a majority of a jury’s vote. Best-selling authors Ann Patchett and Lev Grossman speak with Jeffrey Brown about the integrity of the judging process and the Pulitzers’ power as a sales tool for booksellers.

—-

Watch it go down at 6:44* p.m. ET (live stream here) as we discuss why there was no Pulitzer winner for fiction this year. 

(More on other winners here)

'To Kill a Mockingbird' Turns 50
"Oprah Winfrey tried to coax Harper Lee onto her talk show, and they met for lunch in New York City. And Oprah told me that within 20 minutes she knew that there was no way in the world she would be getting an interview. And in fact Harper Lee had said to her, if you know the character Boo Radley, then you know why I won’t be giving you an interview. And Oprah said she immediately thought, ok, Boo Radley is not coming on my show."
— Mary McDonagh Murphy, author of “Scout, Atticus & Boo: A Celebration of Fifty Years of To Kill a Mockingbird” and maker of the documentary film, “Hey, Boo: Harper Lee & To Kill a Mockingbird.”
Listen to the interview here. 

'To Kill a Mockingbird' Turns 50

"Oprah Winfrey tried to coax Harper Lee onto her talk show, and they met for lunch in New York City. And Oprah told me that within 20 minutes she knew that there was no way in the world she would be getting an interview. And in fact Harper Lee had said to her, if you know the character Boo Radley, then you know why I won’t be giving you an interview. And Oprah said she immediately thought, ok, Boo Radley is not coming on my show."

 Mary McDonagh Murphy, author of “Scout, Atticus & Boo: A Celebration of Fifty Years of To Kill a Mockingbird” and maker of the documentary film, “Hey, Boo: Harper Lee & To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Listen to the interview here. 

"It was almost as if there was a secret world of pronouns that existed outside our awareness."

There are hidden messages in everything you write or say, according to James Pennebaker, chair of the department of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. 

He spoke recently with Scientific American’s Mind Matters editor Gareth Cook about how we use “I,” “we,” and “who” reveals more about us than we think.

Weekly Poem: ‘Observation’

By Jenn Koiter

Today
       despite your usual preference
              for things you can’t quite see—
       mist over mountains
reflections of the countryside
       in the opposite
              window of the train
       grand old houses
almost hidden
       by a thick cross-hatch of leaves—
              the glare
       of the sun on the lake
bothered you
       for once
              you wanted to see
       what was behind it, you wanted
clarity
       instead of things suggesting
              something else.

More from NewsHour Art Beat

"Writing is our cure for the disease of living."

Roger Rosenblatt shares his thoughts on writing.

Before Greeting Card Companies, Valentine Writers Helped the Tongue-Tied
"We write to make suffering endurable, evil intelligible, justice desirable and love possible."

Roger Rosenblatt on PBS NewsHour.