Navigation – Plan du site

”The pangs of dispriz’d love” — On some Discourses of Amorous Melancholy in Shakespeare


Texte intégral

1Before exploring some Elizabethan paradigms of the discourse of love melancholy and some tropes of sensitivity and suffering, I would like to dwell on a thought-provoking statement due to David Schalkwyk in his article, “Love and Service in Twelfth Night and the Sonnets” (The Shakespeare Quarterly Vol. 56, 76). His development — and I must say I fully adhere to his train of thought — begins this way: “Love has all but vanished from current critical discourse. Since the theoretical transformation of Shakespeare studies twenty years ago, scholars have been reluctant to engage with either the word or the concept in Shakespeare’s work.” Most probably the word “love” is much too redolent of sentimentalism although it is a word the Bard himself came close to using more than two thousand times. Thereupon, Schalkwyk somewhat qualifies his statement, arguing notably: “An exception to this trend, and perhaps a sign of a revival of the concept of love, is Maurice Charney, Shakespeare on Love and Lust” (77n) I’ll be referring to hereafter. Despite the above statement, a word such as Eros, although offering conceptual inflexions most certainly alien to Shakespeare, should not be banished altogether because it offers a worthy tool of investigation into the Shakespearean production. My present purpose is indeed to explore an Eros of absence par excellence, namely melancholia and the various declensions of what Hamlet, the most brilliant ratiocinator of the soul but the lamentable lover, calls “The pangs of dispriz’d love” (3.1.72).

  • 1 Pt. 3, Sec. 2., Mem. 3. Symptoms or Signs of Love-Melancholy, in Body, Mind, good, bad, etc. (141).

2Love melancholy is one of the main subjects of Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy (1625), a monument to melancholia, offering an encyclopaedic and panoramic theatrum mundi beneath the mask of Democritus Junior, for which Burton compiled materials from many ancient writers and also from contemporaries of Shakespeare, such as Samuel Daniel and Sir Philip Sidney, who feature eminently in the Petrarchan tradition. Now, if Robert Burton describes the pangs of unrequited love in strikingly rhetorical, even artificial, terms: “love is a plague, a torture, an hell, a bitter-sweet passion at last”1, the pangs of love in Shakespeare are definitely not figurative, but instead literal and painful. Here A Midsummer Night’s Dream gives us a clue to this specific feeling through the allegory of the “little western flower”, a vibrant eloquent expression of the cruelty of love topos in Oberon’s words:

Yet mark'd I where the bolt of Cupidfell:
Itfell upon a little western flower,
Before milk-white, now purple with love's wound:
And maidens call it ‘love-in-idleness’.(2.1.165-8)

3The following presentation will mainly examine cases of “love melancholy” which is “wholly objectal rather than dispositional — not a part of oneself but something that happens to the self”, to take up Douglas Trevor’s words in The Poetics of Melancholy in Early Modern England (13). The survey will start with a close look at the comedies and tragicomedies, then in turn at the tragedies, the narrative poems, actually mainly Venus and Adonis, and the Sonnets, and at the epitome of the genre, A Lover’s Complaint.

4Early in his book entitled The Elizabethan Malady. A Study of Melancholia in English Literature from 1580 to 1642, a landmark opus, Lawrence Babb gives a list of the mental maladies most often discussed in medieval and Renaissance works. They include: “amor (the lover’s malady), lycanthropia (the wolf madness), hydrophobia, the falling sickness (epilepsy), and frenzy. The lover’s malady and the wolfmadness... are usually considered species of melancholy” (36). To start with, the specular dimension is of paramount importance in the love relationship. Thus Berowne in Love’s Labours Lost is an inveterate narcissist in quest of his own reflection in the eyes of women and meeting its demise in the dark lady Rosaline “With two pitch-balls stuck in her face for eyes” (3.1.192). By the way, the mocking Rosaline in Love’s Labours Lost prefigures the Dark Lady of the Sonnets. “All senses to that sense did make their repair,” says Boyet (2.1.239). Thereupon Berowne, the lovelorn wit, launches into a prose reverie: “By heaven, I do love, and it hath taught me to rhyme, and to be melancholy; and here is part of my rhyme, and here my melancholy” (4.3.11-14 emphasis added). Referring to the form of “Petrarchan amorous psycho-physiology” involved in the discourse of love melancholy, Gisèle Venet writes in “Shakespeare — des humeurs aux passions” (91):

  • 2  Gisèle Venet construes this reference to psycho-physiology as the subversion of Petrach's “volupta (...)

The latter, on a metaphorical mode, features love in terms of a latent death which is still preferable to life: the arrow shot by a very first glance provokes an at once physical and mystical wound only likely to heal through an unimaginable carnal fusion and shall therefore only be followed by the languor of a never rewarded expectation. The love’s wound thereby induces in the one plagued by lovesickness a melancholy humour which Petrarch referred to in terms of the subtle “voluptas dolendi”.2

5In Love’s Labour Lost, the King of Navarre goes through such an experience on meeting the Princess of France for the first time and Berowne concludes that scholarly life cut off from love's realities is a most unnatural option and a utopian conception: “From women's eyes this doctrine I derive: / They are the ground, the books, the academes, / From whence doth spring the true Promethean fire” (4.3.298-300); in As You Like It, Orlando is overcome by the charms of Rosalind and remains petrified.

6To enlarge the perspective, it must be said that three melancholy types were especially important in the literature of the period, namely the malcontent, the love-melancholic and the scholar. Jaques in As You Like It belongs to the first category, Orsino in Twelfth Night or the Romeo of the early stages, belong to the second type and Hamlet is the scholarly melancholic par excellence. The love-melancholic had the oldest history of all these stock figures, having inherited the conventions of medieval courtly love. Moreover, as Bridget Gellert Lyons puts it in Voices of Melancholy: “Although the feelings connected with rejected love, seriously explored, were central to the Petrarchan conventions of so many Renaissance love lyrics, the male love-melancholic on the stage was almost always (until later plays, like Ford’s [The Lover’s Melancholy]) a figure of fun. Only women were invested with genuine pathos in that role” (25). Shakespeare’s illustrious tragedy of the same year as Love’s Labours Lost, Romeo and Juliet, starts with an amusing evocation of melancholy, with the young lover Romeo pining away for a worthless Rosaline before his new birth on encountering the sublime Juliet. Romeo’s sadness makes him adopt the trappings of woe and the scholar’s symptomatic retreat from the world, as his father Montague is made to underline: “Away from light steals home my heavy son... locks fair daylight out / And makes himself an artificial night” (1.1.135 / 137-8). As soon as Romeo’s inclination changes, and he finds his feelings reciprocated, the clouds of his melancholy are readily dispelled and study becomes a very minor subject of interest for him. Furthermore, during the above mentioned stage in the action, Romeo speaks in a precious strait-laced idiom sounding like mere affectation. His lavish use of oxymora and rhyming couplets indicates a heightened artificiality: “Why then, O brawling love, O loving hate, / O anything of nothing first create! / O heavy lightness, serious vanity,” (1.1.174-6).

7In the early comedy, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Speed’s savoury speech to Valentine, most wittily cataloguing the typical signs of love melancholy, comes close to a description of Romeo when he first appears on stage. In answer to his master’s question, “Why, how know you that I am in love?”, Speed retorts: “Marry, by these special marks: first, you have learned (like Sir Proteus) to wreathe your arms like a malcontent” (2.1.16-19 emphasis added). In the first chapter of Shakespeare on Love and Lust, Maurice Charney writes concerning the conventions ruling falling in love that love melancholy “is either one of the signs of falling in love or a symptom of a love that has been repelled or rejected” (22). The posturing and attitudinizing of melancholic thwarted lovers and malcontents alike were familiar to an Elizabethan audience and as such provided an easy target for satire and parody. For instance, Rosalind, in As You Like It, describes Cupid as “That same wicked bastard of Venus, that was begot of thought, conceived of spleen and born of madness,” (4.1.201-3 emphasis added). The same diabolically witty Rosalind makes humorous digs at Orlando for his surprisingly healthy appearance. Her supposedly wise uncle has indeed instructed her in the “special marks” of a man in love: “A lean cheek, which you have not; a blue eye and sunken, which you have not” (3.2.363). Such a catalogue aiming at the “love-shaked” Orlando (357) equally neatly fits Hamlet’s “careless desolation” when appearing to Ophelia in her closet.

  • 3  In Erotomania or a Treatise Discoursing of the Essence, Causes, Symptomes, Prognosticks, and Cure (...)

8The saturnalian topsy-turviness of Twelfth Night “juxtaposes and confuses the romantic “upstairs” agonizing of Orsino, Olivia and Viola with the intoxicated ‘downstairs’ misrule of Sir Toby, Feste, Sir Andrew and Maria, and these in turn with the puritanical authoritarianism of Malvolio”, to quote Kiernan Ryan (Shakespeare 112). In Twelfth Night, Duke Orsino is an outrageous lover of love, being far more infatuated with language, music, love and above all himself than he can be with either Olivia or Viola despite his long speeches on the oxymoric “sweet pangs of love” (2.4.16). As for the “willow cabin” speech (1.5.272 ff), it is definitely a case of ironical subversion since it makes Olivia fall in love with the supposed Cesario. As far as Viola is concerned, this lament is modulated according to a different type of irony, namely her absurd self-prompted dilemma in enticing Olivia into loving Orsino, when her own desires are exactly at odds with such a union. “The ‘willow cabin’ threnody beats with this innate strength, singing its rejected love songs ‘loud even in the dead of night.’” Harold Bloom explains (Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human 232).In the “Patience on a monument” speech (2.4.108-16), where this pining sister is a surrogate creation of Viola’s, Viola’s father’s daughter suffers from a “green and yellow melancholy” explained by Jacques Ferrand as the unrequited lover’s pallor being “due to corrupted humors [and being] not ‘simple Decoloration... But rather a mixt Colour of White, & Yellow; or of White, Yellow, & Green’.”3

  • 4  Freud indicates in a note that he is here commenting on the following Hamlet quote: "Use every man (...)

9In the course of “Mourning and Melancholia”, Freud explores the homo melancholicus' perturbed psyche and underscores the spirit of “self-criticism” of Hamlet, the Shakespearean and universal byword for this specific pathology: “For there can be no doubt that anyone who has reached such an assessment of himself, and expresses it to others — an assessment like that which Prince Hamlet has ready for himself and everyone else — is sick, whether he is telling the truth or treating himself more or less unjustly” (206).4 Not only is the young man attired in black bogged down in endless quandaries of selfhood, a prey to an “inward, or existential exile” (Lambotte 44) but he also experiences “the indubitably pleasurable self-torment of melancholia” (Freud 211). In fact the Prince of Denmark evinces both masochistic and sadistic trends. Like the narrator in Baudelaire's “L'Héautontimorouménos”, he is “the wound and the knife”, his own victim and his own executioner, forever probing the “open wound” (Freud 212) of melancholia but neither able nor willing to cauterise it. He also exhibits all the conventional signs of the love malady. Thus the verbose and often blinded Polonius is not wrong in a way to conclude from Ophelia's account of the famous offstage closet scene that “This is the very ecstasy of love” (2.1.102). Also Hamlet's psychological obsessions drive him to exert violence on those closest to his heart and in this respect Ophelia is definitely a case in point.

10In the nunnery speech Hamlet monstrously torments Ophelia into true madness. As for Gertrude’s description of Ophelia’s suicide, it endows the play with a trend of genuine lyrical splendor: “There is a willow grows askant the brook” (4.7.165 ff.) Actually, in the description of Ophelia’s death, pathos is transmuted into the aestheticized vision of horror of a virginal maid sinking down to “muddy death” (182) all the while singing songs. The sad fate of the “Rose of May” is due to the cruelty of love, or rather more specifically to Hamlet’s own failure to love. Although in the graveyard scene his elegiac outpour “out-Herods Herod” (3.2.14), we have every reason to doubt the Prince of Denmark’s ability to love anyone even Ophelia. He does not want or, even need, to love — that is the price to pay for his lonely freedom. The madness from which Ophelia suffers, her virginal sorrows, eventually unlike Hamlet’s “antic disposition” (1.5.180), partly a role, is a complete phenomenon, a division “from herself and her fair judgment” (4.5.85). Philippa Berry in Shakespeare’s Feminine Endings (26) envisages the death of Ophelia and the gendered specificity of such a passing away in terms of a final fusion of Eros and Thanatos and also thereby revivifies the hackneyed vision of the heavily sexualized vegetation and landscape in Gertrude’s discourse:

as nature itself becomes her lover, the deranged young woman’s 'muddy death' is troped as a strangely pleasurable, but also implicitly fruitful, surrender to the dirtiness and ambiguity of bodily desire in her watery river-bed. The reversal inherent in an uncanny doubling or mirroring of lovers (of the willow tree in the stream) is central to this paradoxical death-as-conception…

11The willow is, of course, a conventional symbol if any of disappointment in love, later to be associated by Shakespeare with Desdemona in the “willow song” (Othello 4.3.26-33). The “willow song” is featured by Shakespeare as an act of both remembrance and prosopopoeia. Within this scheme of duplication, three female identities — the voice of the deserted woman of the song, akin to the heroine of A Lover’s Complaint, that of the dead Barbary and that of Desdemona herself — find themselves intertwined. Before broaching the subject of Shakespeare’s narrative poems and Sonnets, a word must be said of the amorous ordeal of the Gaoler’s Daughter in The Two Noble Kinsmen, whose plight is very much akin to Ophelia’s. In this play, the Gaoler’s Daughter falls in love at first sight with Palamon, her father’s noble prisoner. Although the young wench knows that Palamon is a lover “out of her star”, her sexual yearnings carry the day. Like Ophelia, on whom she is partly modelled, the Gaoler’s Daughter soon loses her wits from unrequited love. She sings songs and utters a great deal of pretty maidenly nonsense about flowers, about love, and about Palamon and fears lest she should be desperate to the point of drowning. The cure for the latter’s particular form of love melancholy is clear for the Doctor: he advocates a bedtrick, in other words plain sexual intercourse with the Wooer pretending to be Palamon: “Please her appetite, / And do it home; it cures her ipso facto / The melancholy humour that infects her” (5.2.35-7).

12The story of Venus and Adonis, directly inspired by the tenth book of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, is Shakespeare’s verse epyllion wherein Venus, the goddess of love, a fully mature woman, is throughout portrayed in the act of sexually harrassing the handsome Adonis, yet a beardless boy: “Sick-thoughted Venus makes amain unto him, / And like a bold-faced suitor ’gins to woo him” (5-6 emphasis added). Definitely Venus suffers from love melancholy in the form of unquenched sexual appetite. The most striking fact of all about Venus and Adonis is that no fusion of either words or bodies is possible. However strenuously Venus resorts to the art of rhetoric, she still fails to make Adonis desire her. Venus’s flights of eloquence amount but to paradigms of the hackneyed exhortations which men in the Petrarchan tradition resort to in order to seduce women: carpe diem, make reproduction your aim to avoid the fate of Narcissus. All this is reminiscent, in a gender-reorientated perspective, of the poet-speaker’s advice given to the Fair Youth of the Sonnets. But the climax of the poem — ekphrasis like — is the at once erotic and maternal vision conveyed by Shakespeare of Venus, “the all-encompassing mother, who unites sex with death, and who finally succeeds in dominating the narcissistic Adonis,” which is Coppélia Kahn’s argument in “Self and Eros” (paraphrased by Colin Burrow 37). Like Cleopatra nursing the asp at her breast, that is going to unite her with Antony forever, Venus becomes the all-powerful incarnation of a woman grieving, cradling her “sweet love’s flower” (1188) between her breasts.

13The Sonnets, like A Lover’s Complaint, have much in common, diegetically and narratologically speaking, with Venus and Adonis. Colin Burrow writes about the major issue of Shakespeare’s Sonnets and narrative poems alike: “In the Sonnets and the narrative poems Shakespeare thinks through what it is to love someone you know to be the wrong person to love, and in them too he attempts to construct subject-positions and rhetorical methods to accommodate these multiple perspectives” (5).

14The hallmark of the trilogy of Sonnets 28, 29, and 30 is that they clearly pertain to a long tradition of love-plaints-in-absence. Here the speaker’s multi-tiered self involved in a most intricate chronology, summons up remembrance of grief past. The subject of Sonnet 30 is tracking the personal history of loss and sorrow of the speaker himself in the process of coming to terms with his own emotions. This ruminationculminates in the obsessive string of [oa] diphtongs — “woe”, 'fore-bemoaned moan” — in which grief is not so much aestheticized for purposes of specific strategies of composition and discourse as hypostatized and expressed as excruciating because amounting to the gnawing torment of absence. Many of the poems are characterised by the language of longing, desire, and sadness due to absence. They revolve around a number of themes, namely sleepless nights during which the poet’s thoughts make “a zealous pilgrimage” (Sonnet 27, 6) to the beloved. But when it comes to Sonnet 44, this “zealous pilgrimage” turns out to be but a frustrating incorporeal one signalled by an epanalepsis in the “thought kills me that I am not thought” segment of line 9. The twin sonnet that follows compares thought and desire to air and fire, like in Cleopatra’s sumptuous dying words: “My life, being made of four, with two alone / Sinks down to death, oppressed with melancholy” (lines 7-8 emphasis added). Flesh, tears, thought and desire are respectively emblematised by the gross earth and water and the noble air and fire and Sonnet 44 exposes flesh wishing to be pure thought, an unfettered ambassador of love anticipating the volatility of the poetic spirit in the character of Ariel. To quote from Helen Vendler’s The Art of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, “Injurious distance has mutated into injurious time, and the dj-sound first manifested depressively in injurious and later happily revised in jump returns to its original lugubrious import in the badges of tears” (229). In Sonnet 43, the vesperal backdrop of vivid dreams is “devoutly to be wish’d” compared with the utter vacuity of real days, but the real night, even peopled with dreams, is felt as a miserable compensation for a conjectured living day. Or else in the Sonnets involving the infernal triangle: speaker, addressee and Dark Lady, the pains of love are agonising ones — one is here reminded of Catullus’s “Odi et amo” leitmotif — the speaker remaining deeply emotionally entangled with both Fair Youth and Dark Lady. The whole sonnet sequence up to 126 revolves around the Fair Youth who turns out to be, to take up a phrase from King John: “a scribbled form, drawn with a pen / Upon a parchment” (5.7.32-3), in other words palimpsest-like, a superimposition of epicene archetypal visions of astounding beauty including Adonis or Helen of Troy.

15The Dark Lady is openly untrue and induces the poet-speaker’s self-deception whereas the friend’s identity is diffracted, kaleidoscopic, persuading the poet that things might actually turn out otherwise. The poet-speaker asks in the opening lines of 53: “What is your substance, whereof are you made / That millions of strange shadows on you tend?” (1-2) Both sonnets 131 and 132 are about swearing but, whereas in 131 the speaker swore that his mistress’s face had the power to “make love groan” (line 6), here, like in the anti-Petrarchan send-up of Sonnet 130, he endows blackness with Platonic features eulogising it in: “beauty herself is black” (line 13). The Dark Lady is more tyrannical than ever. Here the poet-speaker, in a most masochistic way, imagines another scenario, that of 131 having apparently failed — the Dark Lady, to enhance her attractiveness, should attire her heart in mourning weeds to match the mourning-like blackness of her eyes. In Sonnet 147, the obsessively alliterating hammering of “disease”, “desperate”, “discourse” and “dark”, culminating in the disturbing “Desire is death” statement of line 8, is an apt summary of the story of the poem and also an explicit evocation of the harrowing pangs of love. But, as Helen Vendler has it: “The ‘clarity’ of the couplet suddenly confers a kind of nobility on the frantic mad speaker, who suddenly enters a moment of utter lucidity even while he is offering an instance of his own past madness” (619): “For I have sworn thee fair, and thought thee bright, / Who art as black as hell, as dark as night.” Now, Sonnets 153 and 154 are close as far as diegetic content is concerned, but far from identical. Both poems are written in the Anacreontic vein and deal with the unquenchability of love. According to 153, the rekindling by a “mistress eye” (line 9) of Cupid's torch, itself a barely veiled allusion to the phallus, turns out to be the ultimate cure for love-sickness. However, and in a typically ambivalent Shakespearean fashion, while 153 envisages an ultimate cure for love, which never actually materialises, in a still more radical way, 154 envisages no cure at all. Shakespeare is then ready for other compartments of discourse, tackling the realm of melancholy Eros with the highly codified rhetorical and metrical pattern of A Lover’s Complaint.

16Throughout the Middle Ages and the early modern period, there emerged a number of plaints featuring female characters involved in situations either erotic, matrimonial or maternal, thereby highlighting the traditional male vision of experiences informing female existence. John Kerrigan’s amply annotated anthology, Motives of woe, Shakespeare & ‘Female Complaint’, devoted to such a specific trend in literature, and notably to Shakespeare’s A Lover’s Complaint, provides us with illuminating insights. For instance, he explains in his preface (vi) that

The title Motives of Woe is taken from A Louers Complaint, 63, where, as often in medieval and early modern English, ‘motives’ describes not only those causal promptings which the typical feminine plainant discloses behind her distress, but the surges of emotion which ‘motivate’ her words and which lead her to use received ‘motifs’ within those ‘moving’ discourses which were themselves known, during the period of the anthology, as ‘motives’.

17A Lover’s Complaint is to be construed as a coda to the Sonnets. Indeed the quartet presented — an old man, a young lass, a seductive young man skilled in meretricious rhetoric as well as an anonymous narrator — recalls in shadowy contours the triangular relationship between older poet, mistress and dangerously handsome and seductive young man in the Sonnets. Shakespeare’s feminine figure laments, her “woeful tale” being reflected off a landscape, very much akin to that of the river in which Ophelia drowns herself or of Desdemona’s “willow song”, a rural landscape that yields nothing but that poignant voice of loss. The vow-breaking lover’s unbearable absence thus reverberates into uproar. The maid in a posture of grievance is turned into an iconic figure of grief on an emblematic riverbank vibrating with the famous dying song of Virgil’s Orpheus. Without even becoming aware of it, Shakespeare’s character is being turned into a figure of both solipsism and reciprocation. Here the topos of reverberation necessarily in turn brings to mind the myth of Echo, a device uniting singleness and multiplicity. Feminist critics read the myth of Echo as one of closure forever condemning the female voice, unsexing and ultimately stealing it (see Philippa Berry's third chapter, “Echoic Language and tragic identity Hamlet (1600)” 44-71). Such is the pathos evinced by Cesario’s “willow cabin” plaint, hollering a “name to the reverberate hills”, to “make the babbling gossip of the air / Cry out” (1.5.276-8). In Twelfth Night, Cesario is Viola’s male mask concealing and muting the feminine. The interplay of voices in A Lover’s Complaint is enclosed within an intricate embedded effect, the poem’s mysterious speaker recounting what he hears an equally mysterious maid tell a “reverend man” and a large part of her woeful story consists in turn in reporting the speech of the young man who seduced her. Ultimately, the narrator is gradually obliterated, which signals the fact that Shakespeare is reluctant to give his story either a moral or a conclusion. This is a way for the poem to signal both the dead end and the endlessness of despair.

18The present paper has attempted to shed, via a sample of Shakespeare’s works, some light on “the cultural status of an affect” which is “variably called depression, melancholia, or even mourning”, to take up Juliana Schiesari’s words in The Gendering of Melancholia (ix). As Shakespeare already sensed, anticipating Freud, the point is to “give sorrow words” (Macbeth 4.3.209) in order to exorcise it and as a way to avoid suicide which some among the characters envisaged fail to do. Indeed, I have talked a lot about love melancholy and not much about its cure, except for the passage devoted to The Two Noble Kinsmen. Whether in the bitter-sweet ending of Love’s Labours Lost, in the inconclusive end of A Lover’s Complaint, or else in the outcome of Ophelia’s tragic fate, it turns out that either misfortune, irony or ambivalence prevail in Shakespeare, whereas in a didactic play like John Ford’s The Lover’s Melancholy (1628), Passion’s errors pave the way for the triumph of legal marital union in Reason. In most instances studied “the “feminine” [becomes] the representational place of loss,” (Schiesari 167), but the following paradox abides: the overpowering male figure allows the only possible utterance of loss, lack, and absence. Eventually, although Jack does not always have Jill, and the amorous experience is more often than not a most dolorous one, still Shakespeare, the divine alchemist of the chiaroscuro of eternal human emotions, manages to dispel the clouds of the “black sun of melancholy”. To paraphrase Berowne’s antithesis, “leaden contemplation” — the exploration of the often excruciating torments of love melancholy — finds its sublime outcome in the elaboration of the “fiery numbers” (Love’s Labours Lost 4.3.317-318) which elevate Shakespeare’s lines onto the wings of Pegasus.

19All quotations from Shakespeare’s text, except The Two Noble Kinsmen, the Sonnets and Venus and Adonis, come from The Arden Shakespeare. Edition consulted for The Two Noble Kinsmen by William Shakespeare and John Fletcher: Penguin Books (ed. N.W. Bawcutt). Edition consulted for the Sonnets and Venus and Adonis:The Oxford Shakespeare Complete Sonnets and Poems.

Haut de page


Babb, Lawrence. The Elizabethan Malady. A Study of Melancholia in English Literature from 1580 to 1642. East Lansing: Michigan State College Press, 1951.

Baudelaire, Charles. Les fleurs du mal in Œuvres Complètes. Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1968.

Berry, Philippa. Shakespeare’s Feminine Endings. Disfiguring Death in the Tragedies. London: Routledge, 1999.

Bloom, Harold. Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human. New York: Riverhead Books, Penguin USA, (1998) 1999.

Burton, Robert. The Anatomy of Melancholy. Ed. Holbrook Jackson. New Intro. William H. Gass. New York: New York Review of Books, 2001.

Charney, Maurice. Shakespeare on Love and Lust. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000.

Freud, Sigmund. On Murder, Mourning and Melancholia. Trans. Shaun Whiteside. London: Penguin Books, 2005.

Gellert Lyons, Bridget. Voices of Melancholy. Studies in literary treatments of melancholy in Renaissance England. New York: The Norton Library, 1975.

Kahn, Coppélia. “Self and Eros in Venus and Adonis”. Centennial Review, 20 (1976): 351-71.

Kerrigan, John (ed.) Motives of Woe. Shakespeare & ‘Female Complaint’. A Critical Anthology. New York: Oxford University Press, (1991) 2002.

Lambotte, Marie-Claude. Esthétique de la mélancolie. 2e édition. Paris: Aubier, 1999.

Ryan, Kiernan. Shakespeare. 3rd edition. New York: Palgrave, (1989) 2002.

Shakespeare, William. The Arden Shakespeare. Ed. James Nosworthy et al. London: Methuen, 1969-1986.

——. The Oxford Shakespeare Complete Sonnets and Poems. Ed. Colin Burrow. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Shakespeare, William and John Fletcher. The Two Noble Kinsmen. Ed. N.W. Bawcutt. (1977). Harmondsworth: Penguin Books: 1987.

Schalkwyk, David. “Love and Service in Twelfth Night and the Sonnets”, The Shakespeare Quarterly No.56 (2005): 76-100.

Schiesari, Juliana. The Gendering of Melancholia. Feminism, Psychoanalysis and the Symbolics of Loss in Renaissance Literature. London: Cornell University Press, 1992.

Trevor, Douglas. The Poetics of Melancholy in Early Modern England. Cambridge University Press, 2004.

Venet, Gisèle. « Shakespeare — des humeurs aux passions », Études Epistémè, n° 1 (2002): 85-94.

Vendler, Helen. The Art of Shakespeare’s Sonnets. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, (1997) 1999.

NB. I translated the excerpts from Gisèle Venet and Marie-Claude Lambotte.

Haut de page


1 Pt. 3, Sec. 2., Mem. 3. Symptoms or Signs of Love-Melancholy, in Body, Mind, good, bad, etc. (141).

2  Gisèle Venet construes this reference to psycho-physiology as the subversion of Petrach's “voluptas dolendi” in Shakespeare's Richard III.

3  In Erotomania or a Treatise Discoursing of the Essence, Causes, Symptomes, Prognosticks, and Cure of Love, or Erotique Melancholy, quoted by Lawrence Babb (136) in the Oxford edition of 1640 (121). Babb adds in his bibliography (191) that "The original French edition appeared in 1612".

4  Freud indicates in a note that he is here commenting on the following Hamlet quote: "Use every man after his desert, and who shall 'scape whipping?" Hamlet, II, 2 (218).

Haut de page

Pour citer cet article

Référence électronique

Mireille RAVASSAT, « ”The pangs of dispriz’d love” — On some Discourses of Amorous Melancholy in Shakespeare », E-rea [En ligne], 4.1 | 2006, document 8, mis en ligne le 15 juin 2006, consulté le 14 décembre 2017. URL :

Haut de page



University of Valenciennes
Mireille Ravassat is senior lecturer at the University of Valenciennes (France) where she teaches British literature, stylistics and translation from English into French. Her main subject of research is Shakespeare (her PhD thesis deals with Shakespeare and the oxymoron in the whole Shakespearean canon, Université Paris 10, 1993). She has contributed to academic books devoted to Shakespeare and to Le Dictionnaire Shakespeare (Ellipses: Paris, 2005). She is regularly involved in setting up international sessions at the intersection of Shakespeare studies and discourse analysis and is currently working on a book on the oxymoron in Shakespeare.

Haut de page
  • Logo Laboratoire d’Études et de Recherche sur le Monde Anglophone
  • Logo DOAJ - Directory of Open Access Journals
  • OpenEdition Journals