Burton's Antics

in Playing the Fool

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print December 2009 | ISBN: 9780226473154
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226473178 | DOI:
Burton's Antics

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In his book Anatomy of Melancholy, Robert Burton plays a game of hide-and-seek. Relying on a variety of adages, Burton challenges his readers to find him out. Appearing and disappearing with seemingly random suddenness, the author paradoxically teases his readers not to put him out of mind. He would prefer to have his readers come to accept his mockery of human foibles as a means of self-knowledge and, hence, of self-healing. Burton's humane candor and modesty encourage the reader to discount his extreme self-deprecation. Anatomy promises to help the reader find his/her way back to sanity, yet is itself a product of the solitude and desultory habits of its author. The book also promises laughter or wisdom, but may very well deliver both by relying on a blend of precept and whimsy.

Keywords: Anatomy of Melancholy; Robert Burton; self-healing; laughter; wisdom; human foibles; sanity

Chapter.  5410 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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