Academic journal article Bulletin of the Comediantes

Medical and Scatological Encounters in Lope De Rueda's Pasos

Academic journal article Bulletin of the Comediantes

Medical and Scatological Encounters in Lope De Rueda's Pasos

Article excerpt

During the late Middle Ages and early modern period, medical practitioners in possession of university degrees began to be preferred over those who had acquired their knowledge according to an "open model" of teaching (Garcia Ballester, Búsqueda 213, McVaugh 71-72, Arrizabalaga 63-68).' Patients looked for competence indicators while health providers flaunted their titles in front of, or after, their name in legal documents (McVaugh 80) and in medical writings (Solomon, Fictions 42-44). Even medical practitioners with no university experience-including those economically depressed and those banned from schools of medicine due to religious beliefs and practices or to gender-came in contact whenever possible with the medical literature available to them (McVaugh 88). Fields such as gynecology and obstetrics, which "had been the exclusive domain of women during the Middle Ages," experienced a gradual encroachment "by male scholars, theologians, and medical practitioners" (Velasco 57).

Despite these preferences, the number of learned physicians remained smaller than that of empirics, of sanitary professionals and paraprofessionals coached privately in occupational communities or by family members, and of folk healers. Mechanisms of control of medical practice, such as specific medical provisions passed in the Cortes and Audiencias, or the setting up of the Tribunal del Protomedicato between 1477 and 1498 by the Catholic Monarchs to examine and license practitioners, attest to this medical pluralism.2 The coexistence and collision of medical systems is evidenced as well by the scornful comments found in texts written by academically trained physicians about empirics, charlatans, and even old women (vetule'f who engage in medical practice without the appropriate training. One such text is Alfonso Chirino's Espejo de medicina, a deontological treatise wherein the physicianwriter argues that improperly educated healers are incompetent and evil.4

The professionalization of medicine and the efforts to exclude women, conversos, and moriscos from its study and practice found support in legal and medical discourses. Furthermore, attempts to erase women from midwifery', an area that remained exempt from the gender bias ty'pical in royal decrees dealing with the responsibilities and competences of the protomédicos (Arrizabalaga 66), are apparent in early modern iconography, where Mary' ceases to be shown as pregnant, nursing, or assisting women in labor, and appears instead as "innocent maiden or sorrowing mother" (Velasco 54). Authors such as Jaunie Roig, Fernando de Rojas, and Francisco Delicado also contributed to the vilification of women healers through their literary' creations. Thus, according to Jean Dangler, the favorable representation of women intercessors found in medical treatises, hagiographie literature, and Marian works during the Middle Ages "changed dramatically in the fifteenth century" (9).

Two of Lope de Rueda's pasos, perhaps even three if we ascribe the thusfar anonymous paso known as "El médico simple" to Lope de Rueda,5 deal with medical practitioners and with the problems confronted by patients who carelessly' leave their health in the hands of someone inept or untrained. I am referring to "Cornudo y contento"6 and to "El paso de Guadalupe y Mencieta,"7 both published by' Joan Timoneda in 1567 within different volumes of Rueda's play's. Rueda scholars point to the difficulty' in discerning the extent of Timoneda's pruning of Rueda's works, emending and possibly altering the original texts in furtherance of the tenets of the Counter Reformation (Canet 13-15; Hermenegildo, "Introducción" 21; González-Ollé). Indeed, these texts- with the help of Timoneda-stand as examples of what Michael Solomon considers the early modern new culture of pathology' triggered by the rise of vernacular medical writing (Fictions 95). Moreover, it is my' contention that because these short theatrical pieces visibly play out and encourage the process of female marginalization from the licit practice of medicine, all in the good name of promoting social order and well-being, they' are all suitable examples of what Solomon considers literature of misogyny with medical underpinnings CLiterature of Misogyny). …

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