The Anatomy of Melancholy

First stage adaptation of Robert Burton’s 1,500 page “first self help manual” published in 1621

Anatomy of Melancholy

Described as “the greatest book ever written”, this 400 year old, 1,500 page attempt to identify the causes, symptoms and cures for all kinds of melancholy contains the arcane, outlandish and hilarious wisdom of its age, some of it still relevant today. 

Ten years ago a Serbian Festival Director Nenad Prokic challenged Stan’s Cafe to adapt this, his favourite book for the stage, in the belief that they were the only company who could pull it off. This is it, their attempt to stage one of the most extraordinary books ever written.

Vicar and librarian Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy is admired throughout literary history.

Its vast scope and epic learning, almost a digest of the 17th century library at Christ Church college, Oxford, where he worked, has inspired writers from Samuel Johnson to Charles Lamb and Keats, who said it was his favourite book. Latterly Borges, Beckett and even Nick Cave have been inspired by Burton’s labyrinthine tome, with subjects ranging from military discipline to inland navigation and the morality of dancing schools, and the symptoms of a woman vomiting pebbles and live eels sit alongside a consideration of the simple pleasures of going for a walk and having a beer.

Burton continued to expand and re-edit the book through his life, admitting that he wrote to cure his own melancholy as well as that of others. Inspired by the theory that he intended the process of reading his book to be as much part of the cure as implementing its recommendations, Stan’s Cafe present a show which both is and is about a cure for melancholy, it finds Burton in his rehearsal room with the script in all its richness still in flux.

Director James Yarker said: “We have been delighted at how well suited the book is to being performed we are merely giving voice to it raging debate of stories, opinions and ideas. The language is energized, highly seductive, often funny and surprisingly personal. We’ve found that whilst Burton gives us insight into a fascinatingly arcane world he often appears to be speaking very directly and with great compassion to us about our lives now.”

Stan’s Cafe (pron. “Caff”) is a group of artists from a variety of disciplines, though primarily theatre practitioners, working under the artistic direction of James Yarker. The company consists of a core of long-term collaborators and a range of associated artists.

The Anatomy of Melancholy
Warwick Arts Centre, University of Warwick, Coventry, CV4 7AL
12th – 15th March 2013 at 7.45pm
0247 652 4524 |, Studio £13.50 (£11.50), Under 26s £9.50