Doctor Rabelais Part III: Doctor Rondibilis on bridling the senses

 

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Rondibilis the physician, 1894
Gustave Doré

During their travels Pantagruel and Panurge meet Dr. Rondibilis, from whom Panurge seeks advice on whether to marry. There follows a passage that has been characterized as “pearls buried in the manure, amid the coarse and obstetric remarks on Panurge’s marriage.” The learned doctor discusses the pros and cons of marriage and outlines five possible ways in which such carnal concupiscence may be bridled in individuals who feel the “poignant prickings of sensuality”:

The first remedy is taking wine in excess, for this causes “a certain cooling of the blood, a certain letting down of the nerves. . . . a certain stuffiness of the senses, and a certain misfire in physical movements, all of which are unfavorable to the act of generation.”

“In the second place, there are certain drugs and plants that render a man chilled, bewitched, and impotent for the act of generation.”

“The third method is by means of assiduous labor,” which causes a great redirection of the blood in a manner opposite to what happens during idleness, which is the mother of lust.

The fourth method is by ardent study, “which causes so incredible dissolution of the animal spirits that none are left to be sent pulsing down to those places destined for the propagation of mankind.”

The fifth way is by maceration of the flesh, as practiced by hermits, in some cases 25 to 30 times a day.

Reference

Putman, Samuel ed. The Portable Rabelais. The Viking Press; 468–473.

 


George Dunea, MD, Editor-in-Chief (Winter 2012)

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