The Male Womb

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


Male characters such as King Lear, Falstaff, Holofernes, Hamlet, Edgar, and Angelo rhetorically appropriate the womb to reveal their interiority to the audience. This chapter explores why the womb—and not male anatomy—is used to delineate their inner experiences. Male characters imagine their bodies possessing wombs, which proposes that their own bodies lack sufficient organs to articulate their inner passions, and subversively emphasizes the womb’s agency. Through an analysis of King Lear’s infamous self-diagnosis of hysterica passio, this chapter considers the semiotics of humoral wombs on stage in summoning a gendered, invisible organ in a visual medium. During performance, the storm and olfactory props render the womb perceptible within the theatrical space by externalizing popular herbal remedies for Lear’s wandering womb.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

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

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