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Title: "And make two pasties of your shameful heads": Medicinal Cannibalism and Healing the Body Politic in 'Titus Andronicus'
Contributor(s): Noble, L (author)orcid 
Publication Date: 2003
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Abstract: Early modern pharmacopoea abound with references to the pharmacological excellence of mumia, or mummy, the remains of an embalmed corpse often prepared according to recipes such as this astonishingly explicit one offered by Oswald Croll: "Chuse the Carcase of a red Man (because in them the blood is more sincere, and gentle and therefore more excellent) whole (not maimed) clear without blemishes, of the age of twenty four years, that hath been Hanged, Broke upon a Wheel, or Thrust-through, having been for one day and night exposed to the open Air, in a serene time. This Mumy (that is, Musculous flesh, of the Thighs, Breasts, Armes, and other parts) from the two Luminaries, once illuminate and constellate, cut into small pieces or slices and sprinkle on them Powder of Myrrh, and of Aloes, but a very little (otherwise it will be too bitter) afterward by Macerating, Imbibe them for certain days in Spirit of Wine, hang them up a little, and again imbibe them, then hang them up to dry in the Air, this so dryed will be like Flesh hardned in Smoak, and be without stink." Croll's recipe adopts the prescriptive terms of a well-established therapeutic model which subscribes to the pharmacological superiority of the human body, both living and dead, and valorizes medicinal cannibalism - the ingestion of medicinally-prepared human flesh as well as blood, fat, bone and bodily excretions for therapeutic purposes. In 'Titus Andronicus' when Titus tells Chiron and Demetrius "...I will grind your bones to dust, / And with your blood and it I'll make a paste, / And of the paste a coffin I will rear, / And make two pasties of your shameful heads," (5.2.186-189) his starkly cannibalistic recipe anticipates Croll's in a fascinating way. Both Croll's and Titus' formulas for the preparation of human corpses require the butchering of corpses, and both employ culinary methods for the processing of their parts - one pickles, and the other bakes. Titus' lines derive their force from the sheer savagery of his plans for revenge - he intends to slaughter, butcher, cook and witness the eating of Dimitrius and Chiron - nevertheless, the figurative language of the play makes it clear that this obvious act of barbaric cannibalism is also a dubious act of therapy. In these terms Titus' recipe powerfully registers the descriptions of pharmacological preparations and deployments of corpses we find, not only in Croll, but also in other early modern pharmacopoea.
Publication Type: Journal Article
Source of Publication: ELH, 70(3), p. 677-708
Publisher: John Hopkins University Press
Place of Publication: United States of America
ISSN: 0013-8304
Field of Research (FOR): 200599 Literary Studies not elsewhere classified
Peer Reviewed: Yes
HERDC Category Description: C1 Refereed Article in a Scholarly Journal
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