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Title: 'See here in bloody lines' : Shakespeare, blood, and the body in circulation
Author: Wiltshire, Harvey James
ISNI:       0000 0004 8508 2008
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2019
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'See Here in Bloody Lines': Shakespeare, Blood, and the Body in Circulation offers a comprehensive reappraisal of the significance of blood-as both literal substance and literary trope-in the works of William Shakespeare, situating his poetry and drama within the medical, theological, and literary contexts in which they were first written, performed and read. By uncovering and decoding the overdetermined symbolism of blood in Venus and Adonis, The Rape of Lucrece, Richard II, The Merchant of Venice, Timon of Athens, and Coriolanus, it demonstrates how blood encompasses a superfluity of meanings which extend far beyond its various isolated disciplinary functions and significances. Above all, blood-as a medicalised substance-signals the disruption of corporeal integrity, and as a profoundly liminal substance mediates the interior by revealing what is otherwise contained, unseen and unknown. Accordingly, this thesis sheds new light on the centrality of blood in both Shakespeare's poetry and drama, and the early modern English imagination, whilst maintaining that production of medical and theological knowledge, as well as the cultural expression, circulation and interpretation of theories associated with blood are historically contingent. At the same time, it interrogates the interrelationships between literature, religion and medicine, and between substance and symbolism, whilst examining the ways in which the texts in question reconcile the apparent incompatibilities of competing medical discourses and the emergence of new ones. Chapter One examines Shakespeare's depictions of wounds and menstruation in Venus and Adonis, in order to demonstrate Shakespeare's Ovidian inheritance and to suggest that the bleeding wound becomes a site in which both gendered bodies and conceptions of desire are contested. Chapter Two explores the idea of the 'let' and images of bloodletting in The Rape of Lucrece, and explores the semiology of blood and its literal and figurative use as a graphic substance, in Lucrece and Thomas Middleton's The Ghost of Lucrece. Chapter Three examines the centrality of blood as sacramental substance in Richard II, and draws the play's interrogation of symbolism, image-governance, and bodies into dialogue with contemporary Eucharistic controversy and devotional reform in order to suggest that Richard's blood is crucial to understanding how and why his authority is questioned and undermined. In Chapter Four, concepts and metaphors of circulation, transfer, transmission, and flow will be the explicit focus of readings of The Merchant of Venice, Timon of Athens, and Coriolanus. Finally, Chapter Five, examines the means by which William Harvey came to his landmark discovery of the circulation of blood, as theorised in Exercitatio Anatomica de Motu Cordis et Sanguinis in Animalibus (1628), by offering a selective account of his education, his philosophical outlook, and the influence of his predecessors, in order to demonstrate the historically and intellectually contingent nature of his discovery This thesis argues that the works of Shakespeare reveal a detailed understanding of the physiology underpinning contemporary medical theories and therapies, as well as the quotidian theological and devotional practices of early modern England and, as such, offers new ways of reading Shakespeare's humoral, bleeding, consanguineous, and circulating bodies.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available