Early modern discourses of lycanthropy and john webster's the duchess of malfi

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This article surveys discourses of lycanthropy in John Webster's The Duchess of Malfi. The lycanthropic imagination underwent significant changes in the seventeenth century. With the rise of a reformed belief that emphasized rationality, werewolf discourses were wedded with medical discourses, particularly those of humoralism, and scholars believed that lycanthropy was a result of excessive black bile, or melancholy. In The Duchess of Malfi Webster follows this discursive trajectory, but his understanding redirects its development; for this playwright, who had an extensive legal education, lycanthropy is an issue raising the question of sovereignty as a lacuna formed within the constitutional body.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-107
Number of pages19
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
* This work was supported by the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Korea and the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF-2019S1A5A2A01036978). * I would like to express my gratitude to the anonymous reviewers of Parergon for their comments and corrections. 1 All quotations from and citations to John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi are from English Renaissance Drama: A Norton Anthology, ed. by David Bevington and others (New York: Norton, 2002).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 EJPAM All rights reserved.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • History
  • Religious studies
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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