Flesh and Stone: Dissecting Maternity in the Theatre of Anatomy

Chris Laoutaris

in Shakespearean Maternities

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print June 2008 | ISBN: 9780748624362
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748671687 | DOI:
Flesh and Stone: Dissecting Maternity in the Theatre of Anatomy

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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

Chapter.  23011 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Shakespeare Studies and Criticism

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