Greece lockdown (Getty)

Life in Quarantine

Quarantine is a word that we have come to know all too well over the past month. It comes from the Italian word quaranta (forty) and was so named because in the Middle Ages when ships came to Venice that had been anywhere with diseases they were not allowed to dock for forty days (quaranta giorni). After anchoring on the water for forty days the ship was allowed to come ashore as long as no problems had arisen onboard in that time.

Coping With Cabin Fever

One danger during quarantine is the risk of developing cabin fever. Basically cabin fever is when you start to go a little bit crazy from being alone or indoors for too long. Think of -pre-coronavirus Tom Hanks in Castaway but without his volleyball pal and making less sense than Jim Bakker. Considering the coronavirus and various restrictions could last up to nine months according to some projections  this is a very important topic to discuss. Especially in times of mass unrest and panic psychological health can be of equal importance to physical health. Firstly, here’s how not to respond to cabin fever: by complaining and seeking attention.

Celebs Are Losing It

Rich celebrities are now increasingly falling prey to cabin fever  or perhaps mansion fever would be more accurate. Some are having emotional breakdowns in their gold-leaf-brocaded villas or making bizarre videos in their bathtub that nobody should have to see as if Madonna subjecting us to her voice for years hadn’t been enough. Sam Smith’s melodramatic Instagram story about the stages of a quarantine breakdown prompted commentator Piers Morgan to lash out, saying the current pandemic is a “war” and he “can’t take anymore of this celebrity attention-seeking bulls–t.” Other less insufferable celebrities like Arnold Schwarzenegger are making best friends with indoor ponies and donkeys, which at least lightens the mood a bit.

Quality Time in Quarantine

Instead of succumbing to cabin fever and watching movies or playing video games all day (try to limit it to half the day), quarantine can be a quality time with family and loved ones or alone. One of the good things about quarantine is that it removes many of the excuses we often use in normal life. It’s possible to use the restrictions of quarantine to be incredibly productive. Don’t believe it? Here are just a few examples of people who used quarantine as rocket fuel for their dreams to inspire you or make you feel inadequate.

Quarantine Success Stories

William Shakespeare’s acting and involvement in theater came to a stop when the black plague hit London in 1606. Billy Wagadagger had nothing to do but wag his pen on the page, so he did: Anthony and Cleopatra, Macbeth and King Lear, to be precise. Other success stories? Gravity-discoverer Isaac Newton was laying low at his family’s pad in the country while England was under quarantine from the plague in 1665. During this quiet time away from Cambridge, Newton delved into calculus and many other advanced theories including the theory of gravity. How about Norwegian painter Edvard Munch, known for his iconic 1893 painting Scream. After surviving the Spanish Flu in 1919, Munch kept on painting and did some great work. It is possible that Munch had quarantine moments where he privately reenacted his famous Scream artwork at length and with a non-silent scream, but he never let the quarantine sap all of his will and he didn’t let his paint run dry.

Another prime example is British writer and author of The Unfortunate Traveller, Thomas Nashe, who had to lay low from the plague in 1592 and wrote a play where he talked about how “the world uncertaine is, fond are lifes lustful joyes.” Another writer who made the plague count was Giovanni Boccaccio who didn’t give up even after he lost his dad and step-mom to the plague in 1348 but ran away and camped out in rural Tuscany where he wrote the famous Decameron about friends who get through quarantine in the plague by telling each other ribald and hilariously inappropriate stories about seduction, adultery, laugh-out-loud misunderstandings and wild happenings.

What About Normal People Who Aren’t Writers?

If you’re not an incredibly talented writer, brilliant painter or scientific genius there are still several options for you.These include: working remotely if possible, lifting weights and doing fitness, taking selfies at various stages of the day (perhaps hourly?), keeping a whimsically funny but also “deeply human” and “compelling” coronavirus journal that will one day be a NYT Bestseller, writing e-mails to friends and family you haven’t spoken to in awhile or even ones you have spoken to recently, planting a garden, doing small construction projects in the garage like cabinetry or making a chair.

Keeping Your Priorities Straight

More things to consider? Doing yoga, meditating, praying, learning new dance moves, reading through a large roster of dystopian novels to escape from the worse reality that’s around us, learning how to work useful computer programs that could help you in your career, learning an instrument, learning a new language on YouTube or with a free or paid program, forming a new relationship online that is entirely virtual and might not be of any interest in regular life if you weren’t internally breaking down about the dramatically unstable state of the world most importantly of all reading the incredibly interesting and informative daily articles on

Huckleberry (When Will This Quarantine Be) Fin(ished)?

The American writer Mark Twain visited Italy in 1867 when there was a cholera outbreak and experienced a quarantine which was not entirely to his liking. His book the Innocents Abroad came out two years later. Twain was touring Europe and the Holy Land as part of a package tour when the 19th Century’s Fourth Cholera Pandemic broke out. You would think the previous three death tours had satisfied cholera’s bloodlust, but apparently not. In 1867 alone upwards of 113,000 Italians died of cholera. At first Twain felt that the containment measures were overblown, but considering he later got cholera visiting Syria and survived he might have changed his mind. Despite his quarantine capers, Twain maintained a positive view of human nature, praising the monks and priests who sacrificed themselves to help the sick and the virtues of taking some time out.

“It surprises me sometimes to think how much we do know and how intelligent we are,” Twain wrote, adding “What a robust people, what a nation of thinkers we might be, if we would only lay ourselves on the shelf occasionally and renew our edges!”