Quacks and charlatans. The world has forever observed them, been their victims and also their enablers. Some of them delight in their skullduggery; some stupidly believe in their own hyperbole. Each night we’re bombarded with treatments and potions absolutely guaranteed to make our lives worry free, unless you read the minute legal disclaimer at the bottom.
The 17th Century was no different. In Moliere’s time there were two schools of medicine. The traditional school of Paris was dedicated to the “ancient” remedies of bleedings, enemas, vomiting and “flushings”, supposedly designed to rebalance “the humors”, biles and liquids of the body. At the age of twenty, Louis XIV, who had survived measles, smallpox and gonorrhea, was treated for a fever by six physicians who proscribed nine bleedings and enough enemas and tea flushings to send him ‘to the pot’ fifteen times a day, then congratulated themselves on his recovery. This continued throughout his life, to the extent that today’s historians point to his survival from 2000 enemas as testimony to his generally superior health.
At the age of eleven, young Jean Baptiste Poquelin watched the chuckling physicians leave his beloved mother’s bedroom to take their places at the family supper table. As they caroused and devoured the house’s provisions the young boy watched the maid carry the bucket of his mother’s blood to the back stoop and pour it into the courtyard. He never trusted doctors from that time on. His skepticism of unquestioning faith in medicine, religion, wealth and power fed a lifetime of brilliant satire that is just as potent today as it was then.
The alternative to the entrenched medicine of Paris was that of the Faculté de Montpellier, near Marseilles, where more innovative – and therefore more threatening to Paris – treatments were being explored, based not on blind allegiance to “the ancients” but on the “scientific method” of observation of Nature, hypothesis, experimentation and analysis.
Do join us this Saturday for our 80 minute matinee of The Imaginary Invalid at 3 and a delightful half hour lecture on “Moliere’s Medicine” by Pasadena’s own Doctor Peter Rosenberg. Reservations strongly suggested: www.parsonsnose.tix.com or 626-403-7667.