«Furor» melanconico tra teoria e pratica legale

ANNO 51 2010
Monica Calabritto

Melancholy «furor», between theory and legal practise
The essay focuses on the trial of Paolo Barbieri for the murder of his wife Isabella Caccianemici in Bologna in 1588. Doctors diagnosed the murderer as affected with «melancholic humours», which apparently led him to kill in a fit of madness. During the trial, witnesses defined Paolo’s behaviour with words ranging from «odd» to «melancholic» to «lunatic », while the defence lawyers for Paolo’s alleged accomplices presented arguments drawn from legal treatises and consilia dealing with the condition of furor, while trying to apply it to Paolo’s alleged «furor». A comparison of the witness’s and defendant’s depositions, and the judge’s questioning, with the textual tradition found in legal treatises and consilia, demonstrates the complex way legal practices in Bologna dealt with matters of madness.

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