“In Every Wound there is a Bloody Tongue”: Cruentation in Early Modern Literature and Psychology

Lesel Dawson, Bonnie Lander Johnson (Editor), Eleanor Decamp (Editor)

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book


Early modern plays frequently depict the victim’s injured body as speaking out against the assailant, particularly in cases of cruentation in which the victim’s wounds bleed in the presence of the murderer indicating his or her guilt. At such moments dead bodies can appear oddly animated and responsive, participating in the process by which the murderer is apprehended and punished. Traditionally seen as a heaven-sent miracle, cruentation was also given a variety of natural and magical explanations, which articulate different assumptions about the physiology of the dead, about the spiritual and psychic consequences of murder, and about the nature of the material world. In this chapter, I offer an overview of explanations for cruentation and explore their psychological implications, arguing that explanations for cruentation provide a material basis for complex psychological processes and structures, offering insight into the operation of guilt on the psyche and its impact on subjectivity.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBlood Matters
Subtitle of host publicationStudies in European Literature and Thought, 1400-1700
PublisherUniversity of Pennsylvania Press
Number of pages15
ISBN (Print)9780812250213
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018

Structured keywords

  • Centre for Humanities Health and Science


  • blood
  • cruentation
  • bier rite
  • guilt
  • early modern psychology
  • Arden of Faversham


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