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Lovesickness and Gender in Early Modern English Literature$
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Lesel Dawson

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780199266128

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199266128.001.0001

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‘A Thirsty Womb’: Lovesickness, Green Sickness, Hysteria, and Uterine Fury 1

‘A Thirsty Womb’: Lovesickness, Green Sickness, Hysteria, and Uterine Fury 1

(p.46) 2 ‘A Thirsty Womb’: Lovesickness, Green Sickness, Hysteria, and Uterine Fury1
Lovesickness and Gender in Early Modern English Literature

Lesel Dawson (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

One of the aspects of women's lovesickness which has caused the most confusion is its relation to three other female maladies: hysteria, green sickness, and uterine fury. Although many critics assume that lovesickness is a version of one or several of these illnesses, lovesickness, hysteria, green sickness, and uterine fury are understood as separate maladies in the early modern period, with their own unique set of symptoms, stereotypical sufferers, and cultural associations. There is, however, an exception. When a woman's lovesickness develops into full-scale madness (as in the case of Ophelia), her illness is frequently seen to be related to her virginity and menstrual cycle and is thus represented as being similar to uterine disorders. This chapter outlines the medical constructions and literary representations of green sickness, hysteria, and uterine fury, and examines Shakespeare's Hamlet and Shakespeare and Fletcher's The Two Noble Kinsmen, two texts that associate lovesickness with uterine disorders.

Keywords:   hysteria, green sickness, uterine fury, virginity, menstruation, Ophelia, Shakespeare, Fletcher, Hamlet, The Two Noble Kinsmen

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