The bubonic plague was one of the most deadly catastrophes of the Middle Ages. It is well chronicled by many historians, although not many accounts are able to capture the reader's attention so well as that of Barbara Tuchman. Historian Barbara Tuchman's integration of animated writing and careful research serves to create a palatable and pleasing, although quite repulsive, essay. In her essay, "'This is the End of the World' The Black Death," Tuchman writes about the bubonic plague. Her essay includes descriptions of the plague and the filth associated with it. Tuchman uses excerpts from the writings of historians contemporary to the plague in addition to her own writing to accurately depict the sense fear characteristic of that time period. She also expresses a sense of chaos due to the enormous losses inflicted by the plague. Tuchman conveys a sensation of impending doom to the reader using these descriptions of filth, fear, and chaos.
Tuchman accurately depicts the filthy environment that fostered the plague and the foulness of the disease itself. The thorough details that Tuchman presents with such relish are nauseating: the disease manifested itself as "spreading boils" and black markings on the skin indicative of internal bleeding; swellings oozing blood and pus the sizes of eggs or apples showed in the armpits and groins of the infected ones; "everything that issued from the body- breath, sweat, blood from the buboes and lungs, bloody urine, and blood-blackened excrement- smelled foul." The disease festered in the closely packed cities; even distant villages were infected. Women, confined to the boundaries of the home, were more prone to the disease due to the fact that they were more exposed to fleas.
Morning light revealed new piles of bodies. In Florence the dead were gathered up by the Compagnia della Misericordia- founded in 1244 to care for the sick- whose members wore red robes and hoods masking the face except for the eyes. When their...
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