Shakespeare in Southern Africa

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“A melancholy of mine own”: The cost of healing and the bad patient

Tara Leverton


The act of ‘curing’ mental illness and psychological disability is often represented as an economic act which establishes the healer figure in a dual role as both destroyer of madness and restorer of economic stability. I begin this article by analysing Christ’s encounter with the madman possessed by the demon Legion, describing the dynamics between the impeccable healer and his wretched patient, and draw out the story’s economic undertones which, to my knowledge, have thus far escaped critical scrutiny. A similar narrative is embedded in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Vita Merlini or The Life of Merlin (c.1150). The trend is disrupted by Shakespeare’s comedy As You Like It (1603), in which an attempt at healing becomes a battle between a self-appointed but flawed healer and one who is determined to cling to and take pride in his disability.

AJOL African Journals Online