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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

(p.220) Chapter 6 The “Love-sicke Hart”
The Secret Wound
Stanford University Press

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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