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