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The Hurt(ful) BodyPerforming and Beholding Pain, 1600-1800$
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Tomas Macsotay, Cornelis van der Haven, and Karel Vanhaesebrouck

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781784995164

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9781784995164.001.0001

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‘I feel your pain’: some reflections on the (literary) perception of pain

‘I feel your pain’: some reflections on the (literary) perception of pain

(p.97) 4 ‘I feel your pain’: some reflections on the (literary) perception of pain
The Hurt(ful) Body

Jonathan Sawday

Manchester University Press

In this chapter, Jonathan Sawday looks at some examples of the representation of pain on the renaissance stage, concentrating on the language which is deployed to reproduce the sensation of both physical and mental pain. Using Shakespeare’s King Lear as his source text, Sawday looks at the way in which eighteenth-century commentators (chiefly Dr Johnson) responded to the play’s ‘painfulness’. Sawday argues that, rather than seeing Johnson’s response as ‘excessive,’ it faithfully rehearses a theory of pain derived (in part) from Locke. Sawday goes on to examine the nature of ‘word-induced’ pain which has become a feature of modern cognitive studies of pain, and which might suggest that Johnson’s reaction to the play may, in fact, have some somatic basis. He concludes by suggesting the possibility that 16th- and 17th-century rehearsals of pain via the medium of metaphoric and devotional language may also have a somatic basis, and one which, with the arrival of new technologies for understanding the location and nature of pain, we are only just beginning to (re-)discover.

Keywords:   Theatre; Shakespeare; Language; Pain and cognition

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