"I Find The Medicine Worse Than The Malady"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Fernando de Alvarez, during a twenty-year enforced absence from his wife Eugenia, has reared their daughter Clara as a boy and later as a soldier. At home, Eugenia has reared her son Lucio as a girl. When Alvarez returns from his long exile he brings the mannish Clara who must now learn to be a woman, just as effeminate Lucio must be taught to be a man. Piorato, a swordsman, is to aid in the curing of Lucio's womanish character. He informs Alvarez's steward Bobadilla of the method he once used to develop manhood in a cowardly milksop. He starved him before a loaded table until he drew a knife to cut meat. Then he dieted him on special food and drink, and rigorously trained him in the use of gun and sword. Bobadilla wonders if perhaps Piorato could use a reverse kind of training to cure him of an ailment. The idea is, of course, more familiar to us in the words of Francis Bacon, "The remedy is worse than the disease."

Could you not cure one, sir, of being too rash
And over-daring?–there now's my disease–
Fool-hardy, as they say? for that in sooth
I am.
Most easily.
To make you drunk, sir,
With small beer once a-day, and beat you twice,
Till you be bruis'd all over; if that help not,
Knock out your brains.
This is strong physic, signior,
And never will agree with my weak body:
I find the medicine worse than the malady,
And therefore will remain fool-hardy still.
. . .