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Documents in Madness_reading Madness and Gender in Shakespeares Tragedies and Early Modern Culture

Documents in Madness_reading Madness and Gender in Shakespeares Tragedies and Early Modern Culture

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George Washington University
"Documents in Madness": Reading Madness and Gender in Shakespeare's Tragedies and EarlyModern CultureAuthor(s): Carol Thomas NeelyReviewed work(s):Source:
Shakespeare Quarterly,
Vol. 42, No. 3 (Autumn, 1991), pp. 315-338Published by:
in association with
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"DocumentsinMadness":ReadingMadnessandGenderinShakespeare'sTragediesandEarlyModernCulture
CAROLTHOMASNEELYOlivia:How now?Arthoumad?
Clown:No,madam,Ido butreadmadness.(Twelfthight,.1.293-94)1Ifothers ad notbeenmad,henwe shouldbe.
(ShoshanaFelmanuotingGeorgesBatailleuotingWilliamlake)2
HIS ESSAYBEGINSTOINVESTIGATE THECONTINUITIES
anddiscontinuitiesbetweentheaboveepigrams.IntheTwelfthightexchangeOliviaaccusesFeste,hericensedfool,ofmadness;hedefends himselfgainstthecharge bydeclaringthathe israther ninterpreterfmadness,referringliterallyo theletter heisreadingfromthesupposedlymadMalvolio,figurativelyohisfool'sroleas asatirist fhumanfolly,nd atadeeperleveltohisaptinscriptionfmadnessinMalvolio,theambitiousPuritansocialclimberandfoolishwould-be loverofOlivia. InthesecondquotationShoshanaFelman,intheepigramtoherbookWritingndMadness,denti-fiesherselfwith hemadness thats hersubjectnaquotationwhichenactstheintertextualityspousedbycontemporarytheorists.Festeinscribesmadness tothwartMalvolio'sdesires andreadsmadness todissociatehim-selffromt;Felmanreadsmadness toassociateherselfwithtandtolicensedesire.As theepigramsimply,madnessis aconundrumtothosewhowouldstudyt. tis amaterialonditionhat,obeunderstood,mustberead,madesenseof,nscribedntodiscourse.3AsMichaelMacDonaldhasaptlynoted,its "themostsolitaryfafflictionsothepeoplewhoexperienceit;but its
Iamindebtedtothequestions,comments,andsuggestionsoffellowparticipantsnShakespeareAssociation ofAmericaseminarsahdofaudienceswhoheardversions ofthisessayatDartmouthCollege,Illinois StateUniversity,heUniversityf IllinoisatUrbana-Champaign,theUniversityfWisconsin-Milwaukee,ndat theconferenceNewLanguagesfortheStage"at theUniversityf Kansas. Iamespeciallyndebtedto hardquestionsraisedbyPeterStallybrass,tevenMullaney,JeanHoward,RichardKnowles,Richard P.Wheeler,andMichaelShapiro,andbyShakespeareuarterly'snonymousreadersandcarefuleditors.All citationsfShakespeare playswillappearintextnd refer oTheCompleteignletlassicShakespeare,ylvanBarnet,gen.ed.(NewYork:Harcourt,Brace,Jovanovich,972).2WritingndMladniessLiteraturelPhilosoplhylPsvchoaalvsis),rans.Martha NoelEvansandShoshanaFelman(Ithaca,N.Y.:Cornell Univ.Press,1985),p.11.3W. F.Bxnum,RoyPorter,ndMichaelShepherd,eds.,TheAnatolmfAladnes.s: ssaysintheHistonrf
Pschtiatrl
3 vols.Lond(on:Tavistock,1985),Vol.1,p.7.
 
316SHAKESPEAREQUARTERLY
the most socialof maladies to those who observetseffects."4oday,as intheearlymodernperiod,t sdetectedby aypersonsbefore t sreferred odoctors. Becauseits"theoreticallyndeterminate,"5tmustbe definedndreadfromwithinomeframework;tsdefinitionsndtherapiesrealwaysconstructedfrom aparticularhistoricalmoment and withinparticularsocialorder,nfluencedyandinfluencinghat rder. The finaldifficultyfreadingmadness-implicitinthe twoepigrammaticxchanges-isthatntheact ofdoingso,onedissociatesneself from t orassociatesoneself withit,andineither case becomesdisqualifiedas aninterpreter.To readmadnesssanelys to missthepoint;toreadmadnessmadlysto haveone'spointbemissed.nthisssaywanttobeginto examinewhy,how,ndwithwhatconsequencesmadness wasreadandrepresentednEnglandintheearlymodernperiod by focusingonhowrepresentationsf madnessinShakespeare'stragediesfunctionwithinwider culturalcontexts.1It haslongbeenrecognizedthatEnglandintheperiodfrom1580to1640was fascinatedwithmadness,althoughsomeaspectsof thisobsessionhavebeen overestimated rmisreported.Thesignsof its fascination re to befoundinthe treatisesn thetopicbyBattie,Bright,Jorden,Wright,ndBurton;inthe theatricalepresentationsf madnessintheplaysofKyd,Shakespeare,Dekker, Middleton,Fletcher,ndWebster;n theargenum-bers ofpatientswhoconsultedsuch well-knownoctorsas RichardNapierandJohnHall(Shakespeare'sson-in-law)withymptomsf mentaldistress;andinthewidespreadreferences oandrepresentationsfBethlem,orBedlam,thepopularname forBethlehemHospital,the mainnstitutionnEnglandinthisperiodwhich confinedtheinsane.Bedlam,accordingtoa1598 visitationeportmade acoupleofyearsbefore HamletandTwelfthNightwerewritten,ontainedonly twentynmates: nine men andelevenwomen(orperhapsten ofeach).Thethirty-onenmates istedna1624reportausedovercrowdingnthenstitution,hichwastiny,loathsomelyandfilthely ept,"andbadly mismanaged.Theterm "Bedlam" wasinwidespreaduseinearlymodernEnglandnot somuchbecause of thempactofthenstitutiontselfwhichhad beeninexistencesahospitalince about1330 andmayhave startedcceptingdisturbedpatientsometimebefore1403,when a visitation ecordreportshepresenceof sixmen "menteapti")butbecauseit had becomea code wordnElizabethan andJacobeanculturefor theconfused,charged,and contestedtopicofmadness.6
4MichaelMacDonald,Mysticaledlam:Madness,Anxiety,ndHealinginSeventeenth-CenturyEnglandCambridge: CambridgeUniv.Press,1981),p.1.5AndrewScull,SocialOrder/Mentalisorder:nglo-Americansychiatryn Historicalerspective(Berkeley:Univ.of CaliforniaPress,1989),p.8.6See PatriciaAllderidge, "ManagementandmismanagementtBedlam,1547-1633" inHealth,medicine,ndmortalityn the ixteenthentury,d. Charles WebsterCambridge:Cam-bridgeUniv.Press,1979),pp.141-64,esp. pp.153,143. Thisessayand asubsequentonebyAllderidge,"Bedlam: fact orfantasy?"nAnatomyfMadness,Vol.2,pp.17-33,correct heinaccuracies nd fantasiesf Bedlamscholarship, speciallyhoseof the tandardhistory,. G.O'Donoghue,TheStoryfBethlehemospital:From tsFoundation n 1247(NewYork:Dutton,1914).AlthoughmanyBedlam inmateswerereleased,some were ncarceratedorperiodsoftwenty earsormore,nd numbers nd turnoverweresmall;there ould have been fewctualTomo'Bedlamswanderingthecountryside.

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