Essay on Life is But a Poor Player

Essay on Life is But a Poor Player

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“...who struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more.” Shakespeare penned these words for the tragic king Macbeth, as he contemplated mortality and its seeming insignificance. But in the world of anatomy, once the actor quits his role, he continues to speak. Anatomists, students, the morbidly curious: all have flocked to dissections for centuries searching for answers. Unknowingly, audiences flock to theatres for the same reasons. Theatre, in the same way as dissection, searches for answers within the human self. Sometimes these answers are concrete, like the location of the heart or the rationale behind suicide; other times they are more metaphysical, like the weight of a human soul, or standing against the desires and influences of societal norms (Roach). As curious, sentient beings, we crave answers, especially to our own inner workings; theatre and dissection are both tools used to explore and discover these ideas and answers.
The practice of dissection dates back to the ancient eras. The Mayans sculpted busts depicting human heads, half flesh and half skull (Wikipedia). Ancient Egyptian documents depict a rudimentary understanding of human anatomy (Ebers Papyrus). It is not until the Golden Age of the Greek civilization that Herophilos, considered the father of Anatomy, was one of the first to publically perform and record his dissections (faqs.org). From these rough origins, the practice of dissection grew in private, behind closed doors, as many cultures looked down upon it as a desecration of the dead. Dissection stayed a quiet, solely academic practice until the early Renaissance when interest in the search for knowledge was renewed and the state began to fund public dissections. The sta...


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...an, a Flayed Man. Images of the Body from the End of the 17th to the Beginning of the 19th Century. Florentine Wax Models in the First-hand Accounts of Visitors." Perspectives on Science 14.4 (2007): 417-56. Project Muse. Web.
Edmonson, James M., and John H. Warner. Dissection: Photographs of a Rite of Passage in American Medicine 1880-1930. New York: Blast, 2009. Print.
Linke, Uli. "Touching the Corpse." Anthropology Today 21.5 (2005): 13-19. Web.
Moore, Charleen M., and C. MacKenzie Brown. "Experiencing Body Worlds: Voyeurism, Education, or Enlightenment?" Journal of Medical Humanities (2007): 231-54. Springer Science + Business Media, Oct. 2007. Web.
Roach, Mary. Stiff. W. W. Norton & Company, 2003. Print.
Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. 13. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippencott Company, Print.
Waldby, Catherine. The Visible Human Project. Routledge, 2000. Print.

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