Lucretian Thought in Late Stuart England: Debates about the by Laura Linker (auth.)

By Laura Linker (auth.)

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18 He theorizes about the atoms animating the animal spirits in a way that demonstrates how the motions of the corporeal soul can lead to violent passion, depicted in the most extreme form in a later text by the anonymous P. M. Gent, The Cimmerian Matron, which satirizes the organization of, and explanations and characters in, The Ephesian Matron. The husband in The Cimmerian Matron suffers from animal spirits that are so disordered by passions of jealous rage in his corporeal soul that he transforms into a satyr, a half-animal, half-man.

1668. All quotations from the text taken from this edition.  The Country Wife, ed. Thomas H. Fujimura, (Lincoln: Univ. of Nebraska Press, 1965).  Maximillian E. Novak discusses love as a disease particularly attached to the town in “Margery Pinchwife’s London Disease: Restoration Comedy and the Libertine Offensive of the 1670s,” Studies in the Literary Imagination, 10 (Spring 1977), 1–23.  H. James Jensen, ed. The Sensational Restoration, (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1996), 42–5.

In a Cartesian context that sees the body as a machine, she has a “mechanical” failure in the nerves. The husband suspects that she is about to meet her lover, and both become “disordered” in their soul’s passions, she in her fear and he in his jealousy. Even minute evidence of her unfaithfulness is enough to fire off his animal spirits. He literally is “transformed into a Satyr” (132), growing violent in his mutilation of the bawd. When the wife returns to take the bawd’s place, she sees what her husband has done and appeals to Diana, goddess of the Moon, for protection, an ironic divinity for her to choose given that Diana is also the goddess of chastity.

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