In 1610, the plague hit London with unusual force. Ever since the Black Death more than a century earlier, bubonic plague had been endemic to Britain, and city dwellers were accustomed to the loss often or fifteen lives each year. But when the number of plague deaths exceeded thirty or forty, panic threatened. Then public gathering-places, such as theaters, were closed, since the disease was thought to spread directly through human contact. A predictable exodus from the city began: anyone with money and access to a country house fled for the duration of the epidemic, leaving the less fortunate in the grip of “the Poor's Plague.“’ When members of the dominant social classes decamped, they delegated household authority to their servants. These temporary aristocrats shared the city with quack doctors who sold unicorn's horn and patent nostrums guaranteed to cure the disease. The city took on a macabre carnival atmosphere of license, at least for those who were still healthy.