Mentions of the “pox,” the “malady of France,” the “infinite malady,” and the “hoar leprosy” in his writings seem to indicate that the Bard knew—perhaps from personal experience—how torturous venereal disease could be. “Shakespeare’s knowledge of syphilis is clinically precise,” said John Ross, MD, author of the study. A line in Sonnet 154, “Love’s fire heats water,” apparently refers to an STD causing burning urination.
In Shakespeare’s time, one of the treatments for syphilis, inhalation of mercury vapor, was worse than the disease. Dr. Ross suggests that Shakespeare’s tremulous signature on his will, his social withdrawal in later years, and even his baldness might all be due to a mild degree of mercury vapor poisoning.
Well, they do say to write what you know.