The Elizabethan Mind
Searching for the Self in an Age of Uncertainty
by Helen Hackett
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Pub Date 12 Jul 2022 | Archive Date 10 Aug 2022
Yale University Press, London, Yale University Press
What is the mind? How does it relate to the body and soul? These questions were as perplexing for the Elizabethans as they are for us today—although their answers were often startlingly different. Shakespeare and his contemporaries believed the mind was governed by the humours and passions, and was susceptible to the Devil’s interference.
In this insightful and wide-ranging account, Helen Hackett explores the intricacies of Elizabethan ideas about the mind. This was a period of turbulence and transition, as persistent medieval theories competed with revived classical ideas and emerging scientific developments. Drawing on a wealth of sources, Hackett sheds new light on works by Shakespeare, Marlowe, Sidney, and Spenser, demonstrating how ideas about the mind shaped new literary and theatrical forms. Looking at their conflicted attitudes to imagination, dreams, and melancholy, Hackett examines how Elizabethans perceived the mind, soul, and self, and how their ideas compare with our own.
“Hackett’s extraordinary achievement in The Elizabethan Mind combines learning and empathy as she ranges across cognitive, emotional, spiritual, and physiological approaches. Come for Hamlet, stay for female complaint, Catholic poetics, sonnets, psychomachia, and much more.”—Emma Smith, author of This is Shakespeare
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 6 members
A mix of history book and psychology book, Helen Hackett explores what made the Elizabethan people tick, and how they believed the mind worked, by looking at a wealth of content - from plays and poems through to psalms and letters - no stone is left unturned in Hackett's quest to find how Elizabethan people thought and behaved.
As a result, this is a deeply fascinating work that gives the reader so much more context for their understanding of how the people acted and behaved both in history and in great works of fiction - absolutely brilliant.