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“The Sad Prophet Jeremiah” as an Icon of Renaissance Melancholy

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“The Sad Prophet Jeremiah” as an Icon of Renaissance Melancholy

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Abstract

Although scholars have referred to the biographical aspect of The Book of the Prophet Jeremiah, it is of course not biography in the modern sense of the term. Yet via the text’s disjunctive narrative arc the reader can follow a character unlike any other prophet in the Old Testament, a fully rounded character whose melancholy is moving and understandable. During the Renaissance, references to The Book of the Prophet Jeremiah and to Lamentations abound in popular and mainstream culture: poetry, emblem books, Bible illustrations, song books, musical transcriptions, jeremiads, sermons, theological treatises, woodcuts, etchings, engravings, paintings, and sculptures. While the reasons for this prophet’s seeming omnipresence may be varied, early in his prose-writing career Milton suggests why he considered Jeremiah so important: This is that which the sad Prophet Jeremiah laments, Wo is me my mother, that thou has borne me a man of strife, and contention. And although divine inspiration must certainly have been sweet to those ancient profets, yet the irksomenesse of that truth which they brought was so unpleasant to them, that every where they call it a burden. (The Reason of Church Government, 1642, 1.802–03)

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Milton’s House of God: The Invisible and Visible Church (Columbia: U of Missouri P
  • R Honeygosky
Rethinking the Turn to Religion in Early Modern English Literature: The Poetics of All Believers
  • Gregory Kneidel
Chapman and Dürer on Inspired Melancholy
  • Frances Yates
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  • Raymond Klibansky
  • Erwin Panofsky
  • Fritz Saxl
  • Melancholy Saturn