Medico‐Moral Theories of Manhood: Strength, Constancy, and Reason

Christopher Fletcher

in Richard II

Published in print September 2008 | ISBN: 9780199546916
Published online January 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780191720826 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Historical Monographs

 Medico‐Moral Theories of Manhood: Strength, Constancy, and Reason

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)


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This chapter moves from the commonplace ideas found in the language of manhood to the more elaborate theoretical explorations of manhood, femaleness, and youth found in medical writings, encyclopaedia, sermons, and ‘mirrors for princes’. These writings accord with the language of manhood in associating manhood with strength and energy. Youth, too, is characterized by strength, but also by inconstancy, a lack of steadfastness which unites youths with women, and leaves them particularly exposed to evil counsel and the temptations of the flesh. It is these characteristics which served as the basis for the attack on Richard II, not the associations with strength and honour which the king's established reputation might lead one to expect. This invites a reconsideration of how these themes became so important in Richard's reign, by returning in detail to the politics of these years.

Keywords: encyclopaedia; sermons; mirrors for princes; energy; youth; inconstancy; counsel; steadfastness

Chapter.  6564 words. 

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

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