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The Anatomy Of Melancholy: Episode 28

July 28th, 2020


This version is captioned, a non-captioned can be found here.

I love everything about this episode, it is possibly my favourite of the full 35.

I love the argument about the virtue of poverty and the conclusion that this can easily be argued by those who are not poor, but only carries legitimacy from those who are – which calls to mind Marx and historically the great wealth of monasteries, the popes and established religion.

I love the hight of luxury being epitomised as a cloak made from the beards of giants – though personally I’d not find such an item psychologically comfortable.

Most of all I love the consoling words in the final section. I love them as a form of poetry and as a reassuring message. In this performance we were privileged to have an unexpected guest star who make her unscheduled appearance at an extraordinarily appropriate moment. If this doesn’t make you well up then you don’t need to be watching video adaptations about a book helping you avoid melancholy, you need to be seeking counciling for those who have lost their very soul.

The Anatomy Of Melancholy: Episode 27

July 27th, 2020


This version is captioned, a non-captioned version can be found here.

This episode starts with a reflection on whether force of will is sufficient to stave off the advance of melancholy. Recent public information campaigns to increase the understanding of mental health take a clear position on this, they seek to rebuff the idea that depression reflects a weakness of character, depression is an illness, traced in many cases to a chemical imbalance, a lack of serotonin, in this circumstance to tell a depressed person to ‘snap out of it’ is akin, as robert Burton says “[to] bid him that is diseased not to feel pain”

In recent months we have all been enforced or encouraged to isolate or distance ourselves from other human company. We will each have our own judgement on the psychological effects of this change. Perhaps we now have a stronger sense of the uplifting powers of good company and friendship than we did before, certainly Burton is convinced of them. He is convinced that if we are feeling melancholic then hanging out with a friend should help. Rather controversially however his advice does encourage friends melancholics to flog them if being nice to them doesn’t cheer them up – it is difficult to imagine how this might help and we do not endorse this course of action.

The Anatomy Of Melancholy: Episode 26

July 26th, 2020


This version is captioned. A non captioned version can be found here.

Sound and ready sleepers can’t easily put themselves in the place of those who struggle to acquire and retain the state. A lack of sleep is depressing and debilitating, a vicious circle in which anxiety over sleep makes sleep more difficult. In this episode Robert Burton offers sensible advice and our actors pass this on from their beds.

An adaptation of Robert Burton’s extraordinary 400 year old book.

More details on this series, the stage version and Stan’s Cafe at: www.stanscafe.co.uk

The Anatomy Of Melancholy: Episode 25

July 25th, 2020


A non-captioned version can be found here.

This episode starts with one of Burton’s fabulous plays on scale. On this occasion he zooms in from the macro to the micro. We should keep active because the natural order of the physical world is movement and evidence can be found from the stars downwards.

Next comes an intriguing provocation. He notes that rich are prone to idleness and hence vulnerable to melancholy in contrast to the poor who are never ideal and thus invulnerable to melancholy. It could be argued that in contemporary Britain it is not the very richest people who are inactive but the very poorest. Unemployment, inactivity and depression appear to sit together as an unfortunate set in some cases.

I love the term ‘gargarized’. I believe people should use it more and attempt to do so myself whenever possible.

Finally, I never tire of hearing Craig reel off his great long list of recommended pastimes. It’s amazing what we used to do to divert ourselves before the invention of the television or computer screen. Anyone for quintain?

The Anatomy Of Melancholy: Episode 24

July 24th, 2020


This version is captioned, a non-captioned version can be seen here.

This is one of the series lighter episodes. It is encouraging to learn that we can ‘rectify’ air in order to cure our melancholy and amusing to hear Sutton Coldfield getting name checked for great air and slagged off that the same time. It’s heartwarming to hear Oldbury also getting a shout out, and not slagged off. There is a hilariously elaborate nod towards one of his patrons whose estate apparently has great air.

Initially it is discouraging to hear Burton extolling the value of travel to fight off melancholy when we are unable to travel. Staying at home has been making many of us melancholy, so it’s good to hear tips on how to improve the air in our ‘chambers’ and how even looking out of our windows may bring us some relief.

This resourcefulness in home improvement makes sense, for although the author’s book roams around the world in its quotations the author wether by choice or lack of opportunity ‘never travelled but in map or card’.

The Anatomy Of Melancholy: Episode 23

July 23rd, 2020


This version is captioned. A non-captioned version can be found here.

Now, early in the second partition, we start to return to the causes of melancholy set out in the first partition but with recommendations for cures. Where before we heard mostly of food to avoid here we are recommended ‘spoon meat’ and learn how often and how much we should eat in order to be cured. There are also some recommendations on the ‘art’ of going to the toilet if you haven’t been all day.

The Anatomy Of Melancholy: Episode 22

July 22nd, 2020


This version is captioned, a non-captioned version can be found here.

In the last episode we cleared up the fact that it is okay to ask a doctor to treat you. In this pragmatic episode we learn how to be good patients. Now we are looked after by the National Health Service we are unlikely to be in the position of ‘shopping around’ for a medic, but in 17th Century England you had to pay your doctor yourself and so it is easy to imagine the tensions Robert Burton suggests arise between doctor and patient.

The Anatomy Of Melancholy: Episode 21

July 21st, 2020


This version is captioned, a non-captioned version can be found here.

This episode is a fantastic time capsule. It takes us back to a time when we might consider approaching a wizard for their advice with out troubles, of course this is discouraged in The Anatomy Of Melancholy. In fact, as the author is a protestant minister, even praying to Saints is discouraged as folly followed by the ‘papists’ – Jesus Christ is after all our ‘one mediator and advocate’ with God the Father.

Intriguingly at this time there was still an argument to be had as to whether it was heretical to go to a doctor for help. Does approaching a human to cure you betray your lacking of faith in God to sort you out? Perhaps his plan is for you to be ill and you would be undoing this plan by getting yourself cured, who knows? Robert Burton reassures us that so long as we use both strategies in tandem we are probably not going to go far wrong. He continues to explain that medicine can’t be an abomination as Jesus used dirt and spit when healing a blind man, which, though not entirely hygienic, does count as medicine.

Of course debates between faith and the medical intervention are still active. We argue about medical intervention in the inception, extension and termination of life human. We fret about the power of modern genetics to alter future generations and an individual’s religious faith may still prevent them from agreeing to treatments such as blood transfusions and organ transplants. There doesn’t seem to be a great resurgence of Wizards offering advice, but that may just be a question of definition, who else will recommend you use ‘healing crystals’ or ‘reiki stones’?

The Anatomy Of Melancholy: Episode 20

July 20th, 2020


This version is captioned, a non-captioned version can be found here.

This is a tough episode as it deals with suicide as the consequence of melancholy. Burton, the vicar, sets out in no uncertain terms the doctrinal position that suicide is a terrible sin, worse even than murder, for in killing themselves the perpetrator ‘kills their own soul’. However, as is often the case, having set out a harsh position Burton continues and displays considerable sympathy and compassion. Ultimately we cannot know other people’s troubles and what is happening in their minds, it is not our place to judge, we should leave that to God and He, knowing all, may choose to show mercy on a soul in torment.

I love this episode, it mixes theology with great compassion.

The Anatomy Of Melancholy: Episode 19

July 19th, 2020


This version is captioned, a non-captioned version can be seen here.

The Anatomy Of Melancholy was written to be read by both women and men. Mostly it doesn’t distinguish between the genders, though of course if the activities under discussion have a gender imbalance then the advice will itself be reflect this. Occasionally however women and men are separated out has having their own distinct relationship with melancholy. In Episode 3 we learnt that men are more subject to melancholy but women, if they do suffer from it, suffer more acutely. Menstruation plays an important role, we are after all much concerned with bodily fluids, including blood, its retention and evacuation. You will be pleased to learn we have left phlebotomy out of this adaptation – along with trepanning!

This episode is devoted specifically to women and one of the subtleties of the stage adaptation we have lost here is that in on stage Rochi was dressed as a man, as if she had infiltrated the scholarly fraternity in disguise. In that version she bursts out with these thoughts and then, as if realising she may have blown her cover, backs down apologising, claiming to be a bachelor leading a monastic life. It’s all original Burton text, just distributed in a different way.

I love this episode’s closing section, which is about as animated and forceful as Burton gets in the whole book. He rants about the awful acts that follow on from enforced celibacy in what seems a very personal way and more or less threatens to see those imposing these rules outside in the car park – ‘let the politicians, the physicians and the theologians look out. I shall more opportunely meet with them elsewhere’.


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