Renaissance plays as a useful source for the comparison between English and Croatian early modern medicine

  • Bruno Atalić


This paper evaluates the differences between English and Croatian views of early modern medicine through the respective Renaissance plays. As Renaissance made no particular distinction between arts and sciences, plays of that time provide a very common source of medical narrative. During Renaissance both languages produced high literary achievements, which makes them exemplars among their Germanic and Slavic counterparts, and justifies this comparison, regardless of their significant differences. One should bear in mind that while England was a unified kingdom, with London as the major cultural centre, Croatia’s division among the neighbouring powers produced several prominent cultural centres such as Zadar, Šibenik, Split, Hvar, Korčula, and the most important one, Dubrovnik. One should also bear in mind that the golden age of Croatian Renaissance plays had finished as early as 1567 with the death of Marin Držić, before it even started in England with the foundation of the first permanent theatrical companies in 1576. Along these lines, this paper compares their early modern attitudes toward medicine in general and men and women practitioners in particular. In this respect, it evaluates the influences of the origin, patronage, and religion of their authors. Special attention is given to William Shakespeare (1564-1616) and Marin Držić (1508-1567) as the exemplars of English and Croatian Renaissance literature.

Keywords: Renaissance; Plays; History of Medicine; Croatia; England; 16th century; 17th century