A monologue from the play by Molière

  • NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from The Dramatic Works of Molière, Vol. III. Ed. Charles Heron Wall. London: George Bell & Sons, 1891.
  • 1ST PHYSICIAN: Since it is a fact that we cannot cure any disease without first knowing it perfectly, and that we cannot know it perfectly without first establishing its exact nature and its true species by its diagnosis and prognosis, you will give me leave, you, my senior, to enter upon the consideration of the disease that is in question, before we think of the therapeutics and the remedies that we must decide upon in order to effect a perfect cure. I say then, Sir, if you will allow me, that our patient here present is unhappily attacked, affected, possessed, and disordered by that kind of madness which we properly name hypochondriac melancholy; a very trying kind of madness, and which requires no less than an Æsculapius deeply versed in our art like you; you, I say, who have become grey in harness, as the saying hath it; and through whose hands so much business of all sorts has passed. I call it hypochondriac melancholy, to distinguish it from the other two; for the celebrated Galen establishes and decides in a most learned manner, as is usual with him, that there are three species of the disease which we call melancholy, so called, not only by the Latins, but also by the Greeks; which in this case is worthy of remark: the first, which arises from a direct disease of the brain; the second, which proceeds from the whole of the blood, made and rendered atrabilious; and the third, termed hypochondriac, which is our case here, and which proceeds from some lower part of the abdomen, and from the inferior regions, but particularly the spleen; the heat and inflamation whereof sends up to the brain of our patient abundance of thick and foul fuliginosities; of which the black and gross vapours cause deterioration to the functions of the principal faculty, and cause the disease by which he is manifestly accused and convicted. In proof of what I say, and as an incontestable diagnostic of it, you need only consider that great seriousness, that sadness, accompanied by signs of fearfulness and suspicion--pathognomonic and particular symptoms of this desease, so well defined by the divine ancient Hippocrates; that countenance, those red and staring eyes, that long beard, that habit of body, thin, emaciated, black, and hairy--signs denoting him greatly affected by the disease proceeding from a defect in the hypochondria; which disease, by lapse of time, being naturalised, chronic, habitual, ingrained, and established within him, might well degenerate either into monomania, or into phthisis, or into apoplexy, or even into downright frenzy and raving. All this being taken for granted, since a disease well-known is a disease half cured, for ignoti nulla est curatio morbis, it will not be difficult for you to conclude what are the remedies needed by our patient. First of all, to remedy this obdurate plethora, and this luxuriant cacochymy throughout the body, I opine that he should by freely phlebotomised; by which I mean that there should be frequent and abundant bleedings, first in the basilic vein, then in the cephalic vein; and if the disease be obstinate, that even the vein of the forehead should be opened, and that the orifice be large, so that the thick blood may issue out; and, at the same time, that he should be purged, deobstructed, and evacuated by fit and suitable purgatives, i.e. by chologues and melanogogues. And as the real source of all this mischief is either a foul and feculent humour or a black and gross vapour, which obscures, empoisons, and contaminates the animal spirits, it is proper afterwards that he should have a bath of pure and clean water, with abundance of whey; to purify, by the water, all the feculency of the foul humour, and by the whey to clarify the blackness of the vapour. But, before all things, I think it desirable to enliven him by pleasant conversations, by vocal and instrumental music, to which it will not be amiss to add dancers, that their movements, figures, and agility may stir up and awaken the sluggishness of his spirits, which occasions the thickness of his blood from whence the disease proceeds. These are the remedies I propose, to which may be added many better ones by you, Sir, my master and senior, according to the experience, judgment, knowledge and sufficiency that you have acquired in your art.