The Dark Ages of Black Death

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Throughout history, there are many examples of mass sickness and death that are spread through civilizations. From smallpox, leprosy, to modern day jousts with swine flu, the concern of mass spread illness has always been feared by all (Kelly). While some illnesses are worse than others, there are none that is more infamous than the Black Death; nowhere else in history has there been a mass spread of disease that compares to the Black Death (Lenz). Entire countries weredevastated by the severity of the sickness and the overwhelming amount of deaths that were left in its wake. Not only was the death toll too great to comprehend, but the impact of such a catastrophic event left a defining mark on generations to come (The Dark Ages).

While the reality of such a devastating event may be hard to comprehend centuries after it took place, it is still known by everyone. The Black Plague caused a mass spread of terror and lead to a drastic drop in the world’s population. For those who lived through the Black Plague, they were faced with the daunting realization of just how horrific life can be. In only a matter of a few years, everyday life changed drastically for those living across Europe and other neighboring nations(The Plague).

While the origins of how the Black Death was spread remain to be debated by many, there is no arguing with the reality of just how contagious it truly was (Pobst). Over only a matter of years, the Plague swept across nations and brought many to a horrific end. This spread of mass disease was swift and was impossible to avoid (Gottfried). Many cities and towns were aware of the disease and could do nothing to prevent it as it made its way closer. Letters were sent out by cities containing warnings of locals who started to show signs of the disease (The Plague). These letters allowed commoners to gauge just how close the Plague was to them and how soon they too would be affected; these people, including royalty and nobleman, could do nothing but helplessly watch as the plague made its way into their homes (The Plague).

Living through this mass spread Plague caused many to become filled with fear. No one was ready to face with the grizzly reality of the Black Death. This overwhelming amount of deaths left many demoralized and lead to numerus instances of people acting out irrationally (The Plague). Some people saw this as reason to indulge themselves and would act out on their worldly desires. Whether it was drinking themselves into a stupor or breaking the law, these people lived their days in debauchery (Boccaccio).

The cause for so many people to act out in this way was due to the lack of moral confines that were normally held into place. An Italian writer by the name of Giovanni Boccaccio, who lived through the Black Plague, recorded a description of how this affected those who were acting out in such an illogical way. He states that“In this suffering and misery of our city, the authority of human and divine laws almost disappeared, for, like other men, the ministers and the executors of the laws were all dead or sick or shut up with their families, so that no duties were carried out. Every man was therefore able to do as he pleased” (Boccaccio). While the absence of order aided the way these people acted, many others chose to act the complete opposite.

These people sought isolation as a means of getting through the overwhelmingly deadly disease. They cut off ties with everyone they knew and focus solely on their own wellbeing (Boccaccio). According to Boccaccio’s record on the matter, he states that, “They formed small communities, living entirely separate from everybody else. They shut themselves up in houses where there were no sick, eating the finest food and drinking the best wine very temperately, avoiding all excess, allowing no news or discussion of death and sickness, and passing the time in music and suchlike pleasures” (Boccaccio).

For those who were still not taken by this Plague, they were faced with the dim reality of dealing with the overwhelming number of deceased; not only were there too many dead bodies that needed to be buried, but the severity of how contagious the disease remained known by all (Gottfried). In larger populated areas, such as towns and cities, the handling of bodies wasoverseen by strict laws to help prevent the further spread of the Black Plague. These laws relied heavily on the preparation and handling of a corpse. In order to make sure these laws were enforced; these laws were backed by fines for those who did not follow precisely the way that was instructed (Wray).

According to health ordinates put in place in the year 1348, it states that “The bodies of the dead shall not be removed from the place of death until they have been enclosed in a wooden box, and the lid of planks nailed down so that no stench can escape, and covered with no more than one pall, coverlet or cloth; penalty 50 pence to be paid by the heirs of the deceased or, if there are no heirs, by the nearest kinsmen in the male line” (Wray). With these laws put into place, many hoped it would help stop the spread of the Plague at such an exponential rate.

As the number of sick people increased, it was clear that single site graves were not going to be enough. It became common for mass graves to be dug out in fields in order to keep up with the rising number of corpses (The Plague). These graves were dug daily and varied in size; one mass grave that was dug in France had eleven thousand people buried in only a six-week period (The Plague). Such graves were dug across Europe, and it seemed to be the only way that people were able to handle such a devastating loss of life (Lenz). The amount of deaths compared to those left alive were overwhelming; there was a high demand for additional people to take on the task of preparing the mass graves and preparing the deceased for burial (The Plague).

With such a high risk of catching this deadly disease, only certain people were willing to handle the dead. Many of these people who came to help with these tasks were those who lived in rural farm lands; their incentive to do so was the direct result of the high pay put in place (The Plague). These men and women endured this dreary situation with hopes to make money for themselves and their loved ones. It was inevitable that these people would not last too long; life expectancy for those burying the dead were short, not many people lived through it (The Plague). Those who died would find themselves in the very graves they dug.

With the spread of the Black Plague affecting all people, no matter what their social standing,many sot out to find a way to cure it. There were many different types of techniques that were tried in hopes that it would slow down or stop the disease; most of these were based off superstitious beliefs held into place by family traditions (The Plague). With the need for wide spread medical attention, there were nowhere near enough physicians to help. A large number of doctors that first started seeing patients towards the beginning of the outbreak slowly began to stop; they were either killed by the Plague or stopped seeing those infected in hopes to preserve their and their families own health (Gottfried).

With so many doctors no longer tending to the sick, it left many without medical treatment. For the few doctors who continued to treat the sick, they were faced with a dangerous and gloomy life. Treating those who were sick wore them down mentally do to the fact that the sickness was extremely contagious. Working conditions were bleak and left many doctors sick themselves. With there being a high rick of catching the sickness, these doctors were forced to go into a long period in quarantine after treating the sick(Gottfried). While the quality of work these doctors had was grim, they were highly compensatedfor their work. One example of the compensation can be seen in a doctor named Giovanni de Ventura. “He was paid 30 florins per month, provided with an ‘adequate house in an adequate location,’ and given supplemental living costs, a cash advance, and two months’ payment after he left his job. In return, Ventura was obligated to treat all plague victims, an agreement later expanded to include victims of all infectious diseases” (Gottfried).

The Black Death devastated entire civilizations and impacted the world. Those who lived through it were faced some of the darkest times in human history. Many countries lost up to half, if not more, of their population and left many in fear of such mass spread disease to return (The Plague). This period in history ultimately shaped the world in the following years to come and has become synonymous with the Dark Ages; not just because of how many lives that were lost, but because of how bleak the days were for those who lived through the Black Death (The Dark Ages).

Cite this paper

The Dark Ages of Black Death. (2021, Oct 07). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/the-dark-ages-of-black-death/

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