Melancholy: the evolution of the English Malady, c. 1550-1750

Emily Betz

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This article argues that the spread of transnational medical theories had a significant effect on how the English perceived the condition of melancholy and, by extension, themselves in the early modern era. The point is made by studying the spread of ideas on melancholy expressed in a popular late-fifteenth-century Italian text, De vita libri tres by the philosopher Marsilio Ficino. By examining how Ficino’s theories of inspired, or genial, melancholy influenced the English medical landscape, this article attempts to highlight the potential for foreign opinion to shape part of what would become known as the essential English character by the eighteenth century.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-113
JournalTrinity Postgraduate Review Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 24 Nov 2019


  • Melancholy
  • Identity
  • History


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