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The First Medical Practitioners in English Drama: Medical Knowledge and Quackery in “The Play of the Sacrament” and in John Heywood’s “The Foure PP”

Roberta Mullini


Mayster Brendiche of Braban in the anonymous Play of the Sacrament and the Poticary in John Heywood’s The Foure PP are the first medical practitioners in English drama. The article studies both characters in the light of early modern medical science in order to stress the relationship between medicine on stage and the state of scientific knowledge in English coeval society. After discussing issues raised by recent criticism, especially about The Play of the Sacrament as being transcribed in the early Reformation, the article examines the two characters according to contemporary medical literature which enlists the characteristics of the good physician and of the seemly apothecary. It results that in the two plays neither character complies with the conduct lines of their respective professions, since the plays present them as negative and despicable quacks, in spite – or rather just because – of their verbose behaviour. Well before the spread of quackery in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, then, early English drama had already exposed and satirized the typical quack.

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Linguæ & - Rivista di lingue e culture moderne
Registered by Tribunale di Milano (06/04/2012 n. 185)
Online ISSN 1724-8698 - Print ISSN 2281-8952

Dipartimento di Scienze della Comunicazione, Studi Umanistici e Internazionali: Storia, Culture, Lingue, Letterature, Arti, Media
Università degli Studi di Urbino Carlo Bo

Editor-in-Chief: Roberta Mullini
Editorial Board: Maurizio Ascari - Stefano Beretta - Antonio Bertacca- Tania Collani - Chiara Elefante - Marina Guglielmi - Maryline Heck - Richard Hillman - Reinhard Johler - Stephen Knight - Cesare Mascitelli - Sonia Massai - Aurélie Moioli - Maria de Fátima Silva - Bart Van Den Bossche 

Editorial Staff: Margaret Amatulli - Alessandra Calanchi - Riccardo Donati - Ivo Klaver  - Massimiliano Morini - Antonella Negri - Luca Renzi

Referee List