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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: October ::
Re: Bile; TN; Endings; Malvolio
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.1005.  Sunday, 5 October 1997.

[1]     From:   Robert Appelbaum <
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        Date:   Thursday, 2 Oct 1997 11:04:29 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0970  Re: Black Bile and Medical History

[2]     From:   John Velz <
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        Date:   Thursday, 2 Oct 1997 23:52:33 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   TN notes

[3]     From:   Laura Fargas <
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        Date:   Friday, 3 Oct 1997 02:46:46 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0994  Re: "feminine endings"

[4]     From:   Carl Fortunato <
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        Date:   Friday, 03 Oct 97 20:34:00 -0400
        Subj:   Re: Malvolio


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Robert Appelbaum <
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Date:           Thursday, 2 Oct 1997 11:04:29 EST
Subject: 8.0970  Re: Black Bile and Medical History
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0970  Re: Black Bile and Medical History

The discussion of humours and melancholy and bile so far seem to have
missed the fact that one of the main problems with the question is the
question itself.  Early modern medicine may have been very wrong but it
wasn't simplistic or reductive.  Medical authorities never believed that
a disorder like chronic melancholy could be reduced to single physical
cause (like an "excess of black bile"); nor did they believe that a
single cure or regimen could be applied to all cases of the disorder
with equal success.  On the contrary, every case had to be considered on
its own terms; that's why doctors supposedly came in handy.  The natural
constitution of the patient (sometimes referred to as her "temperament"
or "complexion") had to be considered along with her present condition.
A naturally choleric person, for example, may well be suffering
temporarily from biliousness, etc.  The condition of the individual,
moreover, had to be considered in view not only of the quality of her
blood (and urine and feces)--all indicators primarily of chemical or
humoural and to some extent what they considered to be "spiritual"
imbalances-but also of her diet, her environment, her personal
relationships, her disposition toward auto-suggestion, and even her
astrological charts, as well as any traumatic experiences she may have
experienced recently or in the past (the death of a parent; being jilted
by a lover.)

That's why eating beef would be indicated for one individual and
counter-indicated for another; that's why purging or bloodletting or
exercise or prayer, etc., was held to work sometimes and not to work
other times.  And that's why so many apparently contradictory solutions
were proposed for what in name seemed to be a single disorder.

Just as today, medicine was both an art and a science, and its rostrums
depended on both a complex calculus of divers factors, "scientifically"
deduced, and an application of divers remedial strategies, whose
efficacy could be either part of medicinal legend or part of the
doctor's personal experience.  And medicine stood and fell, as it does
even today, both on its successes and its failures.

Frankly, I don't know of any modern textbook (including _The English
Malady_ or McDonald's _Mystical Bedlam_) that fully explains how early
modern medicine really _worked._  On the other hand, I'm not sure that
anyone would really be interested in a book that looked at early modern
medicine wholly dispassionately, with no agenda.  If there was a good
one out there that hasn't been mentioned yet I'd be grateful to hear of
it.  In the meantime, I can recommend two books of the period written
for laymen that explain medicine in interesting and entertaining ways:
Elyot's _Castel of Helth_  (ca. 1546: I may be off a year or two) and
Richard Brome's comedy, _The Antipodes_ (1638).

Wishing you all good health,
Robert Appelbaum

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Velz <
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Date:           Thursday, 2 Oct 1997 23:52:33 -0500 (CDT)
Subject:        TN notes

Thanks to Louis Swilley and Patricia Lamb for the intelligent notes on
*Twelfth Night*.  I would like to offer a couple more.  The household of
Olivia is not only in disorder, it happens to have two emblematic
characters in Sir Toby (all play and no work) and Malvolio  (no play, no
"cakes and ale").  The emblems enforce the theme that excess and/or
defect of any virtue are self destructive.  Yet the world wavers between
feast and fast and between the workaday world and the holiday world.
Those who deny either feast (as Malvolio does) or fast (as Sir Toby
does) are natural enemies, but they are more alike than either would
ever admit.  Each of them declines the via media, that middle path
between extremes that ever since Aristotle's time has been influential
in the thinking of Western societies.  Twelfth Night is the night of the
feast of the Epiphany which in Mediterranean countries is more festive
than Christmas.  As the day ends the festivity comes to a sobering
halt.  Ending the period of authorized revelry is necessary.  Some will
not end it without being forced to.  When I lived in France in the 1970s
folks were still eating twelfth night cakes as Easter approached.  No
lenten fasting for them.  Some on the other hand will never acknowledge
that Christmas revelry has a place in human life.  Remember those
Puritans who called Christmas Christtide because they hated celebratory
masses so much?  And that is going on in the culture Shak. is writing
out of.  So Malvolio is thought a puritan by some and a timepleaser by
others.  Knowing when to leave the party is the first mark of maturity.
But let not the party be pooped.

Sorry to ramble on, but it is fun to think back over that fine Trevor
Nunn film.  I too saw it on t.v. recently.

Yours for *festivitas* (controlled, of course)

John W. Velz.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Laura Fargas <
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Date:           Friday, 3 Oct 1997 02:46:46 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 8.0994  Re: "feminine endings"
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0994  Re: "feminine endings"

Andrew Walker White wrote:

> Can't stand the term "feminine" endings, by the way, although I still
> find it used.  How about some alternatives?

Working poets these days speak of a line as ending on an unstressed
syllable.  I don't recall hearing anyone speak of a "feminine ending"
for years.

Laura Fargas

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Carl Fortunato <
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Date:           Friday, 03 Oct 97 20:34:00 -0400
Subject:        Re: Malvolio

> One of my students asked me recently if we have any idea which actor
> might have performed Malvolio originally.  Anyone know, or, at least,
> know if we know?

That one is known to have been played by Richard Burbage, but
unfortunately I forget the source for this.  Maybe Manningham's diary?

        - Carl (
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