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successful ones, those experienced midwives who follow the

empirical practice of Paracelsian iatrochemistry. Paulina is a

memorable embodiment of the early modern “mankind witch”

and midwife in the best sense, both in her compassion and

genuine desire to heal others and in the positive, life-giving,

supernatural power of her alchemy.

By representing and giving us some sense of the great

achievements of actual early modern female medical

practitioners, these two Shakespearean characters may help to

rectify the fact that most of the historical women healers’

achievements are absent from (male) historians’ records and

from the works of prestigious (male) writers, for their practice

had been largely prohibited by the patriarchal society and

medical establishment. If

The Winter’s Tale

presents early

modern women healers as having positive mystical powers,



also demystifies the supposed rationality and power of

patriarchal males (including kings), just as it demystifies the

common association of midwifery and witchcraft with the

forces of evil.


On the other hand, Kerwin remarks that “Many early modern authors

employ the mythological figure of Medea in ways that complement the

widespread process of cultural marginalization of women healers that

defines the early modern medical culture” (2005: 64).