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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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Beyond Ophelia: The Anatomy of Female Melancholy

Beyond Ophelia: The Anatomy of Female Melancholy

(p.91) 3 Beyond Ophelia: The Anatomy of Female Melancholy
Lovesickness and Gender in Early Modern English Literature

Lesel Dawson (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

It is often claimed that whereas male lovesickness is classified as a form of melancholy—a malady associated with creativity, interiority, and intellect—the female version is considered a disorder of the womb. This chapter challenges this model, arguing that female lovesickness is a species of melancholy which can be depicted, not only as a passionate illness which degenerates into madness, but also as a spiritual and cerebral affliction. It offers examples of early modern Englishwomen who fashioned themselves as melancholy in their diaries, portraits, and letters, and outlines the many ways that melancholy and lovesick women appear in literature. In Beaumont and Fletcher's The Maid's Tragedy and Ford's The Broken Heart, the lovesick woman's vocabulary of devotion paradoxically facilitates the expression of otherwise impermissible emotions, such as anger and sexual frustration. Revenge is achieved through self-punishment, in which masochism acts as a displaced form of aggression.

Keywords:   melancholy, masochism, revenge, Beaumont, Fletcher, Ford, The Maid's Tragedy, The Broken Heart

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