Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Beyond MelancholySadness and Selfhood in Renaissance England$
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content.

Erin Sullivan

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198739654

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198739654.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2020. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 03 August 2020



Humorous Identity and the Allure of Genius

(p.87) 3 Melancholy
Beyond Melancholy

Erin Sullivan

Oxford University Press

This chapter begins with a survey of the most influential arguments concerning melancholy, genius, class, and gender, and then explores the extent to which such connections are evident in a collection of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century medical casebooks. In doing so it shows how in the world of medical practice, melancholic affliction most often coincided with dysfunction not (as often thought) in the mind or imagination, but rather in the dyspeptic guts. Moving from physicians’ casebooks to theatre playbooks, it analyses how late-sixteenth-century ‘humours plays’, in particular Shakespeare’s As You Like It, pursued the connection between melancholy and the viscera to comic ends. It concludes with an examination of Robert Burton’s ‘The Author’s Abstract of Melancholy’ and John Milton’s ‘L’Allegro’ and ‘Il Penseroso’, demonstrating how these poems further emphasized the condition’s fractured and even binary nature while simultaneously improvising a more integrated vision of the vicissitudes of melancholic selfhood.

Keywords:   melancholy, genius, doctors’ casebooks, humours comedy, history of medicine, William Shakespeare, Robert Burton, John Milton

Oxford Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs , and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us .