Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
John McAuliffeBill Manhire in Conversation with John McAuliffe
(PN Review 259)
Patricia CraigVal Warner: A Reminiscence
(PN Review 259)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Tim Parksin conversation with Natalia Ginzburg
(PN Review 49)
Next Issue Gwyneth Lewis ‘Spiderings’ Ian Thomson ‘Fires were started: Tallinn, 1944’ Adrian May ‘Traditionalism and Tradition’ Judith Herzberg ‘Poems’ translated by Margitt Helbert Horatio Morpurgo ‘What is a Book?’
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
Reader Survey
PN Review Substack

This article is taken from PN Review 175, Volume 33 Number 5, May - June 2007.

Melancholy: Uncertain Aspects Christopher Middleton
1

Melancholy Jacques, in As You Like It, hardly conforms to type: far from drifting about in a more or less permanent cloud of unknowing, he has analysed some symptoms of his malaise and can explain to Rosalind that its particular degrees correspond to a person's activity:

I have neither the scholar's melancholy, which is emulation; nor the musician's, which is fantastical; nor the courtier's, which is proud; nor the lawyer's, which is politic... but it is a melancholy of mine own, compounded of many simples, extracted from many objects; and indeed the sundry contemplation of my travels, in which my often rumination wraps me in a most humorous sadness. (IV,1).


Apart from implying that those several activities, each having its own degree or mode of melancholy, must for Jacques be precipitated out of a persistent 'humour', atmosphere or condition of soul, this curious statement suggests that rumination itself is for him the source of a sadness. Analytic as his thinking is (with a distinct function in the comedy) he cannot therefore analyse melancholy itself away: for all the parts played it remains a steady reminder of a nothingness to come - 'sans eyes, sans teeth, sans taste, sans everything' (II,7).

From there one might argue that, as some activities induce a ruminative sadness, so too cultural conditions generally shape different modes and degrees of melancholy in peoples. To each people its own slant, at least, ...


Searching, please wait... animated waiting image