Mind control in days of yore

Charles Butler hannibal at thegates.fsbusiness.co.uk
Fri May 16 17:13:03 EDT 2003

> Taming of the Shrew? :-)  Seriously, are you looking for examples in
> children's books pre-Mesmer, or any literature?

I'm looking for any pre-nineteenth century examples (not necessarily
children's lit) where one person uses some kind of power (whether it be
magic, drugs, or whatever) in such as way as to gain complete control over
another person (including their will, perception, memory, bodily control,
etc), either permanently or temporarily. The kind of thing, in short, that
figures such as Gillian Cross's Demon Headmaster does - along with many
other sinister (no! dexter) hypnotists in literature and film. The earliest
clear example I've got so far is Matthew Maule's mesmerism of Alice Pyncheon
in _The House of the Seven Gables_ (1851). I've got a 1595 near-miss with
George Peele's play _The Old Wives' Tale_, where Delia is enchanted by
Sacrapant in such a way that she doesn't know who she is and fails to
recognize her brothers when they come to rescue her, but it's made clear
that Sacrapant achieves this by giving her an amnesiac drug rather than by
overcoming her will as such. I feel there ought to be lots of examples - I'm
wondering particularly about people like Ariosto and Tasso, but there are
thousands of folk-tales, myths and romances involving enchantment of one
sort or another - and yet I can't find another one that quite fits the
hypno-slave bill. So far...


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