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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: September ::
Re: Black Bile and Medical History
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0970.  Monday, 29 September 1997.

[1]     From:   Rick Jones <
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        Date:   Friday, 26 Sep 1997 11:57:16 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0962  Black bile and Medical History

[2]     From:   Derek Wood <
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        Date:   Friday, 26 Sep 1997 15:37:35 -0300
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0962  Black bile and Medical History

[3]     From:   H. R. Greenberg <
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        Date:   Friday, 26 Sep 1997 17:32:28 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0962  Black bile and Medical History

[4]     From:   Joseph Tate <
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        Date:   Friday, 26 Sep 1997 15:14:34 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0962  Black bile and Medical History

[5]     From:   Adrian Kiernander <
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        Date:   Sundayy, 28 Sep 1997 21:28:23 +1000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0962  Black bile and Medical History

[6]     From:   Adrian Kiernander <
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        Date:   Monday, 29 Sep 1997 20:28:19 +1000
        Subj:   More on black bile


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Rick Jones <
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Date:           Friday, 26 Sep 1997 11:57:16 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: 8.0962  Black bile and Medical History
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0962  Black bile and Medical History

I don't have an answer to Alexandra Bennett's question, but I'd bet she
could find one in Lawrence Babb, _The Elizabethan Malady: A Study of
Melancholia in English Literature from 1580-1642_, Michigan State, 1951.

Rick Jones

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Derek Wood <
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Date:           Friday, 26 Sep 1997 15:37:35 -0300
Subject: 8.0962  Black bile and Medical History
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0962  Black bile and Medical History

Lawrence Babb's Elizabethan Malady  remains helpful on questions like
this one and is very readable, also. Since too much thinking could
produce an excess of melancholy, this question is especially relevant
for our profession, more so since poverty and a bad diet worsened the
condition of scholars. Certainly, your student would also enjoy looking
into Burton' Anatomy of Melancholy, I would think.

Derek Wood.

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           H. R. Greenberg <
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Date:           Friday, 26 Sep 1997 17:32:28 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 8.0962  Black bile and Medical History
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0962  Black bile and Medical History

I believe purging was used.

Do you remember Steve Martin's famous skin on Theodoric, Medieval
Physician on Sat Nite Live-they kept bringing him patients who he dosed,
bled, purged etc.-suddenly he stops-"This isn't right, we treat everyone
the same without listening or looking-we should take notes, make
observations, collect symptoms then make proper diagnoses, then form
medical schools" so forth so forth-then he stops-

"NAH!!!" -- and gets on with the bleeding and purging.

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Joseph Tate <
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Date:           Friday, 26 Sep 1997 15:14:34 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 8.0962  Black bile and Medical History
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0962  Black bile and Medical History

"The cures for melancholy properly combined physical and mental
therapy.  Since diet was thought to be a cause of the distemper, diet,
as in choler, was an obvious mode of treatment, suggested by Boorde
[*Dyetary*, London, 1542], Barrough [*Method of Phisicke*, London,
1583], and Laurentius [*Discourse of the Preservation of the Sight*, tr.
R. Surphlet, London, 1599] and others ... Boorde advises a melancholy
man to avoid wines, but Lemnius [*Touchstone of Complexions* tr. T.
Newton, London, 1565] thinks them at least sometimes medicinal ... Since
sedentary study was often a cause, Bright [*Treatise on Melancholy*,
London, 1586] advises moderate exercise ... Laurentius urges music ...
Sleep was a more generally accepted treatment ... Lemnius advises that
one both "cherrishe" the body and relieve "that inconvenience which
distepereth the minde." For this purpose, diversions, games and
"Moderate myrthe and banqueting" were prescribed."

--taken from *The Humors and Shakespeare's Characters* by John Draper
(New York: AMS Press, 1965) 77-8.

Hope this is useful,
Joseph Tate
Graduate Student
U. of Washington, Seattle

[5]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Adrian Kiernander <
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Date:           Sundayy, 28 Sep 1997 21:28:23 +1000
Subject: 8.0962  Black bile and Medical History
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0962  Black bile and Medical History

To Alexandra Bennett

I'm no authority on specifically Elizabethan medicine, but in the late
medieval treatise "The Governance of Health", extant in a large number
of fourteenth- and fifteenth-century manuscripts and then printed by
Caxton so presumably representing some kind of commonplace or mainstream
knowledge, the main technique for redressing imbalance in humours is
diet. Certain foodstuffs were considered to make one more choleric, or
more phlegmatic, etc. Also exercise, and there are other techniques
which we might now call lifestyle changes, but I'd need to check my
notes. (I've studied this reasonably interesting text, but a long time
ago.) I doubt that mainstream medical science in Elizabethan England had
changed its mind significantly on these matters since the late 15th
century.

Adrian Kiernander

[6]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Adrian Kiernander <
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Date:           Monday, 29 Sep 1997 20:28:19 +1000
Subject:        More on black bile.

To Alexandra Bennett

I've checked "The Governance of Health" (which interestingly advises
against blood-letting, preferring exercise as a treatment.)

The principle involved in redressing imbalances is allopathic-excesses
are to be cancelled out by their opposite. The crucial passage
concerning diet reads: "...

 

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