Academic journal article Care Management Journals

Religion, Moral Philosophy, and Madness in Early Modern England

Academic journal article Care Management Journals

Religion, Moral Philosophy, and Madness in Early Modern England

Article excerpt

RELIGION, MORAL PHILOSOPHY, AND MADNESS IN EARLY MODERN ENGLAND Jeremy Schmidt Hampshire, UK: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2007, 217 pp., $99.95 (hardcover).

Jeremy Schmidt, 30-something and a teaching fellow at Halifax's University of King's College, has prepared a richly detailed volume for the series The History of Medicine in Context. Schmidt provides a historical perspective on sin, sadness, and mental illness in 17thcentury England. The profound influence of Calvinism is considered from an intellectual distance but with intriguing references from the language of the time: the melancholic as having "the damps," a "pinprick" becoming the enormity of the "earth's globe." Yet melancholy associates with genius (a disenfranchisement of the poor and unschooled), and Schmidt centers the early chapters of the dissertation on no less than the work of Shakespeare, specifically the heroic Hamlet. Passion and exuberance are considered wicked ("the devil's bath"), and passion is subdued most successfully in sadness. Unrelieved sadness disposes to mental "weakness," and rescue comes from the Anglicans, who in sermons advocate solace as a response to melancholy "especially that which is religious. …

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