Wolves’ Tongues and Mercury: Pharmaceutical Cures for Cancer

  • Alanna Skuse
Open Access
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Literature, Science and Medicine book series


Early modern patients diagnosed with cancer were positioned at the centre of debates about gender, the nature of disease, anatomy and the humours. More practically, they also found themselves with a malady that was often painful and disfiguring and had the potential to end their lives. Confronted with such an illness, what was to be done? The following two chapters examine how cancer sufferers, and the medical practitioners who attended to them, attempted to stem or reverse the effects of this disease. I will argue that, in their most potent forms, cancer treatments continued the conceptual separation of patient from disease which was visible in zoomorphic and anthropomorphic descriptions of cancer’s character. In so doing, they diminished the patient’s role in their own cure, while foregrounding an adversarial relationship between medical practitioners and ‘rebellious’ cancerous tumours. Throughout the early modern period, cancer treatments provoked fierce debate over both the nature of disease and the proper limits of medical intervention.


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Copyright information

© Alanna Skuse 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alanna Skuse
    • 1
  1. 1.Folger Shakespeare LibraryUSA

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