What disease was known as the "KINGS EVIL"?THIS QUESTION IS FROM ACT 4-5

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The reference to "the evil" or "the king's evil" occurs in Act 4, Scene 3, when Malcolm and Macduff are conversing at the English court. Malcolm explains that King Edward has a miraculous power to cure the disease known as scrofula with his touch. Symptoms of the disease are swellings and ulcers. Malcolm speaks of Edward with the greatest admiration, adding that the King "hath a heavenly gift of prophecy, / And sundry blessings hang about his throne / That speak him full of grace." The word "scrofula" derives from the Latin "scrofulae," meaning swelling of the glands, apparently thought to be caused by swine. It can lead to tuberculosis, lymphatism, glandular swellings, and respiratory catarrhs. According to Malcolm, King Edward has a constant stream of supplicants affected by the disease and is able to cure a significant number. In Shakespeare's time King James I was believed to have the same "royal touch."



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