Mourning the Phallus?
(Hamlet, Burton, Lacan and "Others")
In his classic study, Lawrence Babb categorically states that "Elizabethan melancholy began as a fashionable affectation, as an imitation of an Italian attitude."1 Babb's assertion confirms the powerful influence the Ficinian/Tassian paradigm had on the establishment of a melancholy ethos distinct from the disease analyzed in medical discourse. In the Elizabethan tradition, this effect is apparent in the difference between Timothy Bright's still simplistic and physiological Treatise of Melancholia of 15862 and that complex compendium and supreme monument to the Hydran logic of soverchia maninconia,Robert Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy published in five increasingly expansive editions from 1621 to 1638. 3
At the same time, Babb's comment diminishes the rise of melancholia in Elizabethan England to a faddish "imitation" of a questionable foreign "attitude," to an "affectation" of a type typically associated in the British mind with continental and especially Latin culture. Melancholia would be a kind of Italian masquerade, but as Babb adds, "unlike most fads,____________________