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Thomas Browne And The Absurdities Of Melancholy

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Chapter Summary

This chapter argues that Thomas Browne's attitude has historical significance: in the context of the deep divisions scarring England in the mid-seventeenth century, the disparaging representation of melancholic delusion has political implications. It is possible that Browne?s ?absurdities of melancholy? echoes Robert Burton?s ?absurd apparitions?, though it is more likely that the phrases reflect a particular attitude to melancholic delusion. Burton?s discussion of the corrupt imagination crucially reveals that the conceit of being dead, like the conceit of having only one leg, belongs to fabula or popular narrative. The essentially dramatic nature of the remedial tricks recommended by Burton is further demonstrated by the fact that three Shakespearean plays (a tragedy, a comedy, and a tragi-comedy) contain versions of such ?tricks?.

Keywords: absurdities of melancholy; Robert Burton; Thomas Browne



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