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When her words become too extreme for his plagued and

swelling ego, Paulina’s “boundless tongue” whips Leontes and

provokes him into calling her a “mankind witch”

a familiar

derogatory term for women who used bold language during this

period. However, when the king threatens to burn her like a

witch, she replies fearlessly:

Leo. I’ll ha’thee burnt.

Paul. I care not.

It is an heretic that makes the fire,

Not she which burns in’t. (2.3.113-116)

Defiant, unyielding, confident, Paulina reminds us of the

historical woman healer Thomasina Scarlett (1550-1640),

Shakespeare’s contemporary, in late sixteenth-century England.

Scarlett was accused repeatedly yet refused to desist from

practicing her medical art and come under the college’s control.

According to the historical records of the censorial hearings,


Scarlett had been summoned to the courtroom seven times,

from 1588 to 1610 (she practiced medicine from 1578 to

1610), and was imprisoned as a result of several cases.

Scarlett’s example testifies to the historical healers who were

prosecuted, and more importantly to her defiance.

Thus according to an account of her first trial: “S

appeared and confessed to having given purgatives to Duck

and Hodskins. She admitted that she often gave emetics and

had given medical advice to 100 other people. She was asked

to give a bond against future practice. She agreed and went

away.” A much clearer account of her resistance is found in the

entry for February 12, 1595, only several days after she was

denied release in spite of the “letters” from outside requesting

and favored survival of the body at the expense of the flesh” (1965: 106).


The documents regarding the censorial hearings, initially from the “Annals

of the College of Physicians,” see Scarlett (n.d.). The following citations of

Scarlett’s hearings are all from the above source.