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Medicine Matters in Five Comedies of Shakespeare

From the Renaissance Context to a Reading of the Plays

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Luisa Camaiora and Andrea A. Conti

The book examines the presence of medicine matters in Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors, Love’s Labour’s Lost, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Taming of the Shrew, and The Merry Wives of Windsor, and documents how the theme of medicine can acquire particular importance for the interpretation of the plays: namely, it matters. Andrea A. Conti provides information on certain aspects of the medical context of the Renaissance, effecting the essential connections with previous and subsequent periods and furnishing the necessary background for the understanding of the state of the art of medicine at the time. Luisa Camaiora presents a close reading of the comedies, and identifies for each a specific and dominant medical facet, then proposed as a structural key for the analysis of the plays. The medical motifs enucleated determine the critical perspective for the discussion of the dramatic characters and events and for the interpretation of the overall meaning and significance of the single works. Features and references related to the sphere of medicine, identified in the comedies, are also commented upon and examined in the context of this medical reading of the plays.

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4. Homoeopathic Necessity in The Taming of the Shrew: Interactive Therapy

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4.  Homoeopathic Necessity in The Taming of the Shrew: Interactive Therapy

The Taming of the Shrew proposes a situation of disorder embodied in the character of Katherina. She is presented as a disobedient and vexatious daughter, an aggressive and petulant sister and a bad-tempered and nagging marriageable woman – in a word, a shrew. It may therefore not be out of place to recall the objective characteristics of the animal, as also the superstitions and myths accruing in folk-lore, at the time of Shakespeare, around the shrew.

The shrew belongs to the group of small, insectivorous mammals of the family Soricidae and is considered to be the smallest of mammals. In appearance it is similar to the mouse; it is from six to eight centimetres long and weighs only a few grams. The animal is brownish in colour, with small eyes and ears, long and sharp front teeth, a pointed snout, and a tail of moderate length. Some shrews live in and under the vegetation on the ground, some in burrows and some even in trees. Shrews are extremely agile, nervous and aggressive, and they react fiercely when disturbed by other animals. They are nocturnal creatures, and their basic preys are worms, but some eat other small animals even those larger than themselves. Since shrews can only survive a few hours without eating, they spend most of their time looking for food. Their life cycle is only fifteen months.

In English folk-lore the shrew has...

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