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Title: Medicine and medical practice in the works of Thomas Middleton and his contemporaries
Author: Ridge, Hannah Margaret
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis considers the depiction of medical practitioners in plays and selected pamphlets by Thomas Middleton and other playwrights in the period 1603-37. It directs attention to the dramatists’ representation of characters who prescribe and dispense medicine, contending that concerns which in previous criticism were focused on the sick body can also be explored in relation to the medical practitioner. It examines how dramatists use medicine as a framework within which to stage anxieties about the meaning of professionalism, the changing urban world, access to bodies and private space, the limits of medical knowledge, and the power and authority of medical professionals. The thesis situates the drama in relation to the early modern medical marketplace, paying special attention to licensing, treatments, the professionalisation of the physician and the impact of scientific change. The following subjects are treated: the divisions of the medical marketplace and licensing and regulatory structures; the limits of medical knowledge and the conflict between medicine and religion; physicians’ knowledge of poison and tensions between professional ethics and royal authority; the position of the quacksalver in the urban medical market and anxieties about medicine as a trade; the difference between the treatment of the body and the mind and the potentially curative power of theatre. The thesis concludes that Middleton’s consistent interest in medical practitioners is particularly representative of contemporary medical anxieties, whilst recognising that he was working within a cultural context which was strongly conditioned by medical anxieties. The thesis demonstrates that Middleton’s wide-ranging depiction of practitioners deconstructs the symbolic divisions between them, questions medical power, authority, and considers anxieties about the expansion of access to medical knowledge and tensions about medicine’s status as a vocation or a trade. The thesis further concludes that drama’s potential for cure is emphasized through the staging of treatments and cures.
Supervisor: Rickard, Jane ; Butler, Martin Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available