Drama for Students Volume 15 by Carole L. Hamilton, David Galens

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By Carole L. Hamilton, David Galens

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Where Chapter 3 emphasizes the women who absorb paint directly, this chapter studies the male admirers who absorb its effects indirectly, and examines the grotesquely material consequences attributed to spectatorship. Chapter 5 draws together the book’s concerns with the effects of the theater and the vulnerability of the body in an examination of the vulnerability of the ear and the power of language in Hamlet. With its strikingly self-conscious attention both to the workings of the theater and to the effects of dangerous drugs, Hamlet embodies this book’s themes with particular forcefulness.

Volpone puts Mosca’s model of performance into action, and underlines implicit parallels between the roles of actors and doctors, when he sets aside his primary role of a deathbed invalid to play a doctor himself in order to catch a glimpse of the beautiful Celia. As a word-swirling mountebank, Volpone revels in enacting, with parodic hyperbole, precisely the traits of which Mosca accused doctors in his earlier speech, fused with the playful theatricality that is his own hallmark. This scene, in which Volpone is finally allowed to regale an audience with the full force of his virtuouso verbal skills, offers the play’s most explicit reflections on the pleasures and perils of the theater.

My life for his, ’tis but to make him sleep. 18). While Corbaccio’s feigning is no match for the quicker wits of Volpone and Mosca, his unsuccessful attempt to play at deceit establishes medicine as the most dangerous arena for the theatrical games the play explores. 71, 70). While other dissembling tricks in the play rob their victims of money or pride, however, those of medicine threaten to kill, a possibility that edges the play’s comic farce uncomfortably towards the domain of tragedy. Mosca’s diatribe against doctors, while spoken largely in jest to justify the refusal of a clear poison, identifies the medical profession explicitly with murder, evoking the complaints against doctors cited earlier in this chapter.

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