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Shakespearean MaternitiesCrises of Conception in Early Modern England$
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Chris Laoutaris

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780748624362

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748624362.001.0001

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Flesh and Stone: Dissecting Maternity in the Theatre of Anatomy

Flesh and Stone: Dissecting Maternity in the Theatre of Anatomy

(p.27) Chapter 1 Flesh and Stone: Dissecting Maternity in the Theatre of Anatomy
Shakespearean Maternities

Chris Laoutaris

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter tries to reverse the assumption that the popular early modern genre of anatomical satire developed purely as a reaction against, and should therefore be understood antithetically to, the early modern discipline of human dissection. The Fabrica's title-page shows the peculiar cult of personality with which Vesalius hoped to be associated. It then shows the ways in which Shakespeare's dissections of the maternal body in Hamlet both appropriated and interrogated a satirical tradition which supplied the anatomists with the propagandist machinery which proved so crucial to their pedagogical enterprise. It is suggested that Vesalius' strategies for establishing the professionalised status of the new anatomical regime borrow from the emblematic devices which formed the satiric repertoire of the cutting-edge humanist circle that gathered around Charles V. Hamlet's anatomical critique provides material evidence of the matrilineal transmission of ‘evil’. Shakespeare dramatises the failure of the satirical posture in Hamlet.

Keywords:   human dissection, satire, Fabrica, Hamlet, Vesalius, Shakespeare, maternal body

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