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The Secret WoundLove-Melancholy and Early Modern Romance$
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Marion A. Wells

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780804750462

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804750462.001.0001

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The “Love-sicke Hart”

The “Love-sicke Hart”

Female Love-Melancholy and the Romance Quest

Chapter:
(p.220) Chapter 6 The “Love-sicke Hart”
Source:
The Secret Wound
Publisher:
Stanford University Press
DOI:10.11126/stanford/9780804750462.003.0007

This chapter examines Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene, its depiction of the mutual influence of her “bleeding bowels” and mental suffering, and the implications of this gendering of love-melancholy as a form of hysteria for the poem's broader revision of romance. Here Glauce invokes the inward space of Britomart's body as the invisible site of a mysterious suffering, trying to conceal the real cause with obfuscating rhetoric. Spenser provides a more precise reference to the source of Britomart's suffering as her “love-sicke hart,” because Britomart is suffering from the female form of lovesickness or love-melancholy. This chapter analyzes the cultural and poetic significance of Britomart's “love-sick hart” by juxtaposing Spenser's descriptions of Britomart's psychosomatic suffering with contemporary medical accounts of female love-melancholy (also termed “uterine fury”) and its treatment. Finally, it looks at the house of Busirane as a complex allegorization of Scudamour's atra voluptas—a willfully indulged erotic suffering that holds the beloved (Amoret) prisoner by stripping her of any reality outside her lover's obsessive mind.

Keywords:   Edmund Spenser, Faerie Queene, love-melancholy, psychosomatic suffering, hysteria, romance, lovesickness, atra voluptas

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