World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article


Article Id: WHEBN0000020875
Reproduction Date:

Title: Melancholia  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: History of depression, John Dowland, Saudade, Sources of Hamlet, Arousal
Collection: Abnormal Psychology, Emotions, Humorism, Melancholia, Mood Disorders, Obsolete Medical Terms
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Melancholia (from Greek μελαγχολία melancholia "sadness", literally black bile),[1] also lugubriousness, from the Latin lugere, to mourn; moroseness, from the Latin morosus, self-willed, fastidious habit; wistfulness, from old English wist: intent, or saturnine, was a concept in ancient and pre-modern medicine. Melancholy was one of the four temperaments matching the four humours.[2] In the 19th century, "melancholia" could be physical as well as mental, and melancholic conditions were classified as such by their common cause rather than by their properties.[3]


  • History 1
  • Cult 2
  • Related concepts In Islam 3
  • See also 4
  • Notes 5
  • Citations 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8


Frontispiece for the 1638 edition of The Anatomy of Melancholy

The name "melancholia" comes from the old medical belief of the four astrology it showed the influence of Saturn, hence the related adjective saturnine.

Melancholia was described as a distinct disease with particular mental and physical symptoms in the 5th and 4th centuries BC. Hippocrates, in his Aphorisms, characterized all "fears and despondencies, if they last a long time" as being symptomatic of melancholia.[7] When a patient could not be cured of the disease it was thought that the melancholia was a result of demonic possession. [8] [9]

In his study of French and Burgundian courtly culture,

  • and clinical depression, iconography and printmaking techniquesMelencoliaGrunwald Center website: Durer's
  • "Dürer's Melancholia": sonnet by Edward Dowden
  • Melancholy and abstraction, on the Berlin exhibition "Melancholy: Genius and Madness in Art"
  • Diderot's historic writing on Melancholy
  • A consideration of the Durer's work and the 2011 film 'Melancholia'

External links

  • Blazer, Dan G.: The Age of Melancholy: "Major Depression" and its Social Origin. Routledge, 2005. ISBN 978-0-415-95188-3.
  • Bowring, Jacky: A Field Guide to Melancholy. Oldcastle Books, 2009. ISBN 978-1-842-43292-1.
  • Boym, Svetlana: The Future of Nostalgia. Basic Books, 2002. ISBN 978-0-465-00708-0.
  • Jackson, Stanley W.: Melancholia and Depression: From Hippocratic Times to Modern Times. Yale University Press, 1986. ISBN 978-0-300-03700-5.
  • Kristeva, Julia: Black Sun. Columbia University Press, 1992. ISBN 978-0-231-06707-2.
  • Radden, Jennifer: The Nature of Melancholy: From Aristotle to Kristeva. Oxford University Press, 2002. ISBN 978-0-195-15165-7.
  • Schwenger, Peter: The Tears of Things: Melancholy and Physical Objects. University of Minnesota Press, 2006. ISBN 978-0-816-64631-9.

Further reading

  1. ^ μελαγχολία, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus Digital Library
  2. ^
  3. ^ Berrios, G. E. (1988). "Melancholia and depression during the 19th century: A conceptual history". The British journal of psychiatry : the journal of mental science 153 (3): 298–304.  
  4. ^ Hippocrates, , 10.103De aere aquis et locis, on Perseus Digital Library
  5. ^ μέλας, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus Digital Library
  6. ^ χολή, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus Digital Library
  7. ^ Hippocrates, Aphorisms, Section 6.23
  8. ^ 18th-Century Theories of Melancholy & Hypochondria
  9. ^ Farmer, Hugh. An essay on demoniacs of the New Testament 56 (1818)
  10. ^ Huizinga, "Pessimism and the ideal of the sublime life", The Waning of the Middle Ages, 1924:22ff.
  11. ^ "I, man of sadness, born in an eclipse of darkness, and thick fogs of lamentation".
  12. ^ Huizinga 1924:25.
  13. ^ Britton, Piers, "Mio malinchonico, o vero... mio pazzo": Michelangelo, Vasari, and the Problem of Artists' Melancholy in Sixteenth-Century Italy, The Sixteenth Century Journal, Vol. 34, No. 3 (Fall, 2003), pp. 653-675, Article DOI: 10.2307/20061528, JSTOR
  14. ^
  15. ^ Cf. The Anatomy of Melancholy, subsection 3, on and after line 3480, "Music a Remedy":
  16. ^
  17. ^ "Humanities are the Hormones: A Tarantella Comes to Newfoundland. What should we do about it?" by Dr. John Crellin, Munmed, newsletter of the Faculty of Medicine, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1996.
  18. ^ Aung, Steven K.H., Lee, Mathew H.M. (2004). "Music, Sounds, Medicine, and Meditation: An Integrative Approach to the Healing Arts". Alternative & Complementary Therapies 10 (5): 266–270.  
  19. ^ Goldring, Elizabeth (August 2005). So lively a portrait of his miseries': Melancholy, mourning, and the Elizabethan malady"'". British Art Journal 6 (2): 12–22. Retrieved 2014-10-04.  - via JSTOR (subscription required)
  20. ^ Ribeiro, Aileen (2005). Fashion and fiction: Dress in art and literature in Stuart England. New Haven Conn. London: Yale University Press. p. 52.  
  21. ^ a b Strong, Roy (1964). "The Elizabethan Malady: Melancholy in Elizabeth and Jacobean portraiture". Apollo. LXXIX. , reprinted in Strong, Roy (1969). The English Icon: Elizabethan and Jacobean Portraiture. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. 
  22. ^ Ribeiro, Aileen (2005). Fashion and fiction: Dress in art and literature in Stuart England. New Haven Conn. London: Yale University Press. p. 54.  
  23. ^ a b Istanbul, chapter 10, (2003) Orhan Pamuk
  24. ^ Konuk, K. (2011). "Istanbul on Fire: End-of-Empire Melancholy in Orhan Pamuk'sIstanbul". The Germanic Review: Literature, Culture, Theory 86 (4): 249–261.  
  25. ^ Avicenna, Fi'l-Ḥuzn, (About Ḥuzn)
  26. ^ Summa Theologica, Thomas Aquinas


  • Melancholia is a specific form of mental illness characterized by depressed mood, abnormal motor functions, and abnormal vegetative signs. It has been identified in medical writings from antiquity and was best characterized in the 19th Century. In the 20th Century, with the interest in psychoanalytic writing, "major depression" became the principal class in psychiatric classifications. [See Taylor MA, Fink M: Melancholia for details of history.]
  • In 1996, Gordon Parker and Dusan Hadzi-Pavlovic described Melancholia as a specific disorder of movement and mood. [Melancholia" A Disorder of Movement and Mood, Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press, 1996]. More recently, MA Taylor and M Fink crystallized the present image of melancholia as a systemic disorder that is identifiable by depressive mood rating scales, verified by the present of abnormal cortisol metabolism (abnormal dexamethasone suppression test), and validated by rapid and effective remission with ECT or tricyclic antidepressant agents. It has many forms, including retarded depression, psychotic depression and postpartum depression.


See also

The various uses of ḥuzn and hüzün thus describe melancholy from a certain vantage point, show similarities with female hysteria in the case of Avicenna's patient and in a religious context it is not unlike sloth, which by Dante was defined as "failure to love God with all one's heart, all one's mind and all one's soul". Thomas Aquinas described sloth as "an oppressive sorrow, which, to wit, so weighs upon man's mind, that he wants to do nothing."[26]

As a parallel with physicians of classical Greece, ancient Arabic physicians and psychologists also categorized ḥuzn as a disease. Al-Kindi (c. 801–873 CE) links it with disease-like mental states like anger, passion, hatred and depression, while the Persian physician Avicenna (980–1037 CE) diagnosed ḥuzn in a lovesick man if his pulse increased drastically when the name of the girl he loved was spoken.[25] Avicenna suggests, in remarkable similarity with Robert Burton, many causes for melancholy, including the fear of death, intrigues surrounding one's life, and lost love. As remedies, he recommends treatments addressing both the medical and philosophical sources of the melancholy, including rational thought, morale, discipline, fasting and coming to terms with the catastrophe.

The Arabic word found as ḥuzn and ḥazan in the Qur'an and hüzün in modern Turkish refers to the pain and sorrow over a loss, death of relatives in the case of the Qur'an. Two schools further interpreted this feeling. The first sees it as a sign that one is too attached to the material world, while Sufism took it to represent a feeling of personal insufficiency, that one was not getting close enough to God and did not or could not do enough for God in this world.[23] The Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk, in the book Istanbul: Memories and the City,[23] further elaborates on the added meaning hüzün has acquired in modern Turkish. It has come to denote a sense of failure in life, lack of initiative and tendency to retreat into oneself, symptoms quite similar to melancholia. According to Pamuk it was a defining character of cultural works from Istanbul after the fall of the Ottoman Empire.[24] One may see similarities with how melancholic romantic paintings in the west sometimes used ruins from the age of the Roman Empire as a backdrop.

Related concepts In Islam

A similar phenomenon, though not under the same name, occurred during the German Sturm und Drang movement, with such works as The Sorrows of Young Werther by Goethe or in Romanticism with works such as Ode on Melancholy by John Keats or in Symbolism with works such as Isle of the Dead by Arnold Böcklin. In the 20th century, much of the counterculture of modernism was fueled by comparable alienation and a sense of purposelessness called "anomie"; earlier artistic preoccupation with death has gone under the rubric of memento mori. The medieval condition of acedia (acedie in English) and the Romantic Weltschmerz were similar concepts, most likely to affect the intellectual.

In music, the post-Elizabethan cult of melancholia is associated with John Dowland, whose motto was Semper Dowland, semper dolens. ("Always Dowland, always mourning.") The melancholy man, known to contemporaries as a "malcontent," is epitomized by Shakespeare's Prince Hamlet, the "Melancholy Dane."

In the visual arts, this fashionable intellectual melancholy occurs frequently in portraiture of the era, with sitters posed in the form of "the lover, with his crossed arms and floppy hat over his eyes, and the scholar, sitting with his head resting on his hand"[21]—descriptions drawn from the frontispiece to the 1638 edition of Burton's Anatomy, which shows just such by-then stock characters. These portraits were often set out of doors where Nature provides "the most suitable background for spiritual contemplation"[22] or in a gloomy interior.

Night-Thoughts (The Complaint: or, Night-Thoughts on Life, Death, & Immortality), a long poem in blank verse by Edward Young was published in nine parts (or "nights") between 1742 and 1745, and hugely popular in several languages. It had a considerable influence on early Romantics in England, France and Germany. William Blake was commissioned to illustrate a later edition.

The Anatomy of Melancholy (The Anatomy of Melancholy, What it is: With all the Kinds, Causes, Symptomes, Prognostickes, and Several Cures of it... Philosophically, Medicinally, Historically, Opened and Cut Up) by Burton, was first published in 1621 and remains a defining literary monument to the fashion. Other major melancholic English authors whose works contain extensive meditations on death include Sir Thomas Browne, Hydriotaphia, Urn Burial (1658), and Jeremy Taylor with the conventionally religious Holy Living and Holy Dying (1650/51).

(1433–1499), who replaced the medieval notion of melancholia with something new: Marsilio Ficino humanist and Neoplatonist traced the origins of this fashionable melancholy to the thought of the popular Roy Strong, art historian Apollo 1964 essay in [20][19]During the later 16th and early 17th centuries, a curious cultural and literary cult of melancholia arose in England. In an influential
Melancholy, etching by Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione, 1640s
The young John Donne, the very picture of fashionable melancholy in the Jacobean era.


But to leave all declamatory speeches in praise [3481] of divine music, I will confine myself to my proper subject: besides that excellent power it hath to expel many other diseases, it is a sovereign remedy against [3482] despair and melancholy, and will drive away the devil himself. Canus, a Rhodian fiddler, in [3483] Philostratus, when Apollonius was inquisitive to know what he could do with his pipe, told him, "That he would make a melancholy man merry, and him that was merry much merrier than before, a lover more enamoured, a religious man more devout." Ismenias the Theban, [3484] Chiron the centaur, is said to have cured this and many other diseases by music alone: as now they do those, saith [3485] Bodine, that are troubled with St. Vitus's Bedlam dance.[16][17][18]

The most extended treatment of melancholia comes from Robert Burton, whose The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621) treats the subject from both a literary and a medical perspective. Burton wrote in the 17th century that music and dance were critical in treating mental illness, especially melancholia.[15]

Painters were considered by Vasari and other writers to be especially prone to melancholy by the nature of their work, sometimes with good effects for their art in increased sensitivity and use of fantasy. Among those of his contemporaries so characterised by Vasari were Pontormo and Parmigianino, but he does not use the term of Michelangelo, who used it, perhaps not very seriously, of himself.[13] A famous allegorical engraving by Albrecht Dürer is entitled Melencolia I. This engraving has been interpreted as portraying melancholia as the state of waiting for inspiration to strike, and not necessarily as a depressive affliction. Amongst other allegorical symbols, the picture includes a magic square, and a truncated rhombohedron.[14] The image in turn inspired a passage in The City of Dreadful Night by James Thomson (B.V.), and, a few years later, a sonnet by Edward Dowden.

[12], embodying for contemporaries "a tendency", observes Huizinga, "to identify all serious occupation of the mind with sadness".merencolie. Ideas of reflection and the workings of imagination are blended in the term Jean Meschinot and in the late fifteenth-century poetry of [11]

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.