Internet Shakespeare Editions



Hans Sachs, Eygentliche Beschreibung Aller Stande auf Erden (1568).
By permission of the British Library.

Childbirth was hazardous; medical works of the time are full of remedies for a difficult labour.

For ease in child bearing
If a woman have a strong and hard labour: take four spoonful of another woman's milk, and give it the woman to drink in her labour, and she shall be delivered presently.

For a woman that is new brought in bed, and swooneth much
Take motherwort*, and mints, the quantity of a handful in all, seethe them together in a pint of malmsey* and give her to drink thereof two or three spoonful at a time, and it will appease her swounding.

From Gervase Markham, The English Housewife (1615).

More on the image...*

Helkiah Crooke's Mikrokosmographia (1615) is a text on medicine and childbearing.


  1. Motherwort

    "Mugwort is hot and dry in the second degree. Pliny saith that mugwort cureth women's diseases. It helpeth those with hysteria, and the pain in the womb, it assisteth in easing childbirth. It is to be boiled as baths for women to sit in, or the tender tops are to be boiled and drunk for the same diseases." (From Gerarde's Herbal [1597])

  2. Malmsey

    A sweet, fortified wine.

  3. Casting a horoscope

    In this engraving of a scene of childbirth, the women are concerned with the business of the birth, while the men in the background are busy casting the child's horoscope.

    Click to see more about belief in the stars.