During the eighteenth century both men and women of the wealthier classes wore high-heeled shoes, though the women’s heels were considerably higher. The majority of these shoes, as seen in this plate, ranged from 1-3 inches in height (Linder and Saltzman 203-204). These shoes became the subject of much criticism from physicians. For example, Dr. Jacob Benignus Winslow said in a 1740 talk to Académie Royale des Sciences that the footwear “totally changes the anatomy of [the feet bones]…as a result of the unnatural union or forced anchylosis [of them]” (Linder and Saltzman 204). The fact that Moll had these shoes shows how successful she had been as a kept woman, and there is a touch of irony that they are tossed aside as soon as she is fallen. There is also a possibility that the shoes were stolen.
Cupping Medical Treatment
The use of cupping is an ancient form of medicine. It involves rinsing out the bottom of a cup with methylated spirits and lighting it on fire. When placed over the skin, the gas sucks the oxygen out of the cup, creating a vacuum that in turn painlessly bruises the flesh (Dearlove et al. 1685M). In this plate, one of Moll’s physicians is promoting the use of cupping as a means of treatment for her syphilis. Since cupping was not a treatment for syphilis, the fact that these doctor’s were suggesting it shows how little they knew about their professions.
Moll as deathly victim to the ills of a society that benefits from prostitution combined with intertextual references to recognizable Londoners, e.g. quack doctors (Momberger 51), emphasizes the moralizing theme.
Moll's social treatment
The plate also shows Moll being ignored while her two doctors argue. Even as a patient, Moll is treated with indifference.
While Moll is evidently dying as a result of her venereal disease (syphilis), an old woman who could be Moll’s bawd, landlady, heir, or chaperone is seen securing Moll's possessions for herself or perhaps taking what Moll owed her (Lichtenberg 59).
Hogarth uses the two ‘quacks’ to create a sense of irony as they are seen discussing the best way to cure her disease and save her life. However, it is evident that they are more caught up in arguing over medical terms (Bartual 96).
Hole In the Wall
Symbolizing the poor condition of Moll’s health, this hole highlights her living conditions during her decline. Prostitutes were given little charity. Dowries was given to orphanages to encourage orphaned young women to marry rather than take up prostitution (Tikoff 317). Moll is fashioned as a victim and is condemned due to her vanity (Porter 233).
Elite exploitationIn Plate 5, we see exploitation of a "vulnerable woman" (Erwin 681) by the respectable figures of society. Moll falls victim to the ills of a society that benefits from prostitution. The moralizing theme is emphasized by the intertextual references to recognizable Londoners, e.g. quack doctors (Momberger 51). Prostitution is used as a vehicle to demonstrate the debasement of humanity into debauchery, and the prostitute as “atonement for the sin of all humankind” (Erwin 681).
The Sweating BlanketThe use of the sweating blankets or hot springs to treat syphilis in the 1700’s was a common practice. The patient was administered a shot of mercury and left to sweat in a hot spring or wrapped in warm blankets. It was believed that this exposure to heat would allow the patients to absorb larger amounts of mercury into their systems which would apparently treat the disease more effectively. (Thompson, 216)
Moll is now dying of syphilis. Dr. Richard Rock on the left (black hair) and Dr. Jean Misaubin on the right (white hair) argue over their medical methods, which appear to be a choice of bleeding (Rock) and cupping (Misaubin). A woman, possibly Moll's bawd and possibly the landlady, rifles Moll's possessions for what she wishes to take away (Source: Wikipedia).