The Green Womb

  • Amy Kenny
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Literature, Science and Medicine book series (PLSM)


In Cymbeline, Imogen’s death and rebirth critique the way her chastity is commodified by male suitors, exonerating her reputation while exposing male characters as untrustworthy. Her comatose state and subsequent revivification mimic the symptoms of greensickness described in early modern medical texts, which warned practitioners that if womb illnesses were left untreated, a woman could develop temporary paralysis or even die. Sensationalized tales of syncopic women were widespread in the early modern period and served as warnings of the potential corporeal ramifications of perpetual virginity, constructing the conjugal marital bed as safest for women’s humoral balance. The use of greensickness in Shakespeare’s plays exposes the cultural anxiety around the womb by dramatizing women who subversively find empowerment and determination in their chastity.


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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Amy Kenny
    • 1
  1. 1.University of CaliforniaRiversideUSA

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