English authors near the beginning of the seventeenth century explore and exploit tensions between traditional Galenic and newer Paracelsian models of contagion and cure. Medicine is both a subject and a metaphor. Shakespeare and Donne are skeptical about medicine's ability to cure. They treat new ideas cautiously yet allow room for the potential utility of chemical medicines and modern anatomies. Shakespeare engages the Galen-Paracelsus debate in All's Well That Ends Well, ultimately presenting an alchemical female healer superior to both schools. Comparison with King John and The Merry Wives of Windsor reveals Shakespeare's move away from traditional humoral medicine so satirized in the period toward a newer medicine based on chemical models of contagion and cure. The later plays then drift away from the debate toward concepts of cosmic sympathies. Donne's poetry and prose works demonstrate a medical understanding of the ailing body that allows him to test and exceed the boundaries of both metaphor and the human body. Attention to anatomical detail provides Donne with rich imagery for exploring his complex personal brand of dualism. In the ecstatic writings, including Ignatius His Conclave and Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, Donne shows complicated condemnation and exaltation of chemical medicines as both physic and metaphorical vehicle. Francis Bacon's New Atlantis presents a utopian quasi-scientific community that includes explicit research facilities for chemical medicines. Robert Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy demonstrates the limitations of humoral medicine and explicitly encourages laboratory alchemy for the production of nonorganic medicines.
UNiversity of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. April 2013. Major: English. Advisor: David Haley. 1 computer file (PDF); iv, 253 pages.
Larkin, Christopher Ross.
Iatrochemical healing in Shakespeare and Donne: the diseased and cured body in the English Literary Imagination, 1590-1638.
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