Page:Elizabethan People.djvu/47

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27
THE ELIZABETHAN CHARACTER

was the game. Good, old-fashioned quarterstick was nothing more nor less than fighting with staves till blood flowed from the crown of the head. The first to draw blood won.

We are not surprised after considering all this, to find that the Elizabethans considered insanity almost as a joke. The Elizabethans were not hard-hearted; they merely did not understand the malady. It puzzled them. They believed that an insane person was possessed of a devil; literally that an evil spirit had taken up his abode in the house of clay, and that the only way to drive him out was to make his dwelling uncomfortable. Hence the frequent maltreatment of the sufferer. The treatment of Malvolio in Twelfth Night is a good example of the current usage. "We have but two sorts of people in this house, and both under the whip; that's fools and madmen." (Middleton's Changeling, i. 2.) Another illustration: "Shut the windows, darken the room, fetch whips; the fellow is mad." (Marston, What You Will, v. 1.) The patients were starved sometimes, and subjected to many other inhuman punishments.

Yet, when all is said, there is still something to be said. Cruel, callous to the sufferings of beasts, quick to draw blood, used to the sight of mutilated convicts, and corpses dangling in the gallows'