Stay tuned for annotations and additional entries.

Anderson, Susan L., et al. “Disability in Early Modern Theatre: Introduction.” Early Theatre, vol. 22, no. 2, 2019, pp. 143-156.

  • This special issue introduction contextualizes the articles that follow it in the field of scholarship on disability and early modern theatre and discusses possibilities for future scholarship.

—. “Limping and Lameness on the Early Modern Stage.” Performing Disability in Early Modern English Drama. Springer International, 2021.

  • Anderson develops a typology of forms of lameness by examining its literal and figurative significations is a number of early modern plays. Anderson also discusses lameness in relation to the meter of dramatic verse. Anderson argues that the plays examined align lameness with variability.

Andrews, Jonathan. “Begging the Question of Idiocy: The Definition and Socio-Cultural Meaning of Idiocy in Early Modern Britain: Part 1.” History of Psychiatry, vol. 9, no. 33, 1998, pp. 065–95, 10.1177/0957154X9800903306.

—. “Begging the Question of Idiocy: The Definition and Socio-Cultural Meaning of Idiocy in Early Modern Britain: Part 2.” History of Psychiatry, vol. 9, no. 34, June 1998, pp. 179–200, 10.1177/0957154X9800903403.

Aronson, Jeffrey K. “When I use a Word . . Counterfactual Medical History: Milton’s Poetry.” BMJ (Online), vol. 377, 2022, pp. o1569-o1569.

  • In this unusual engagement with early modern disability, the author seeks to determine “whether and to what extent Milton’s blindness may have affected his poetry: [by] analysing the vocabulary that he used and how often he referred to his blindness” (n.p.).

Arroyo, Silvia. “Breaking the Vitreous Eye: Sight and Blindness in Ana Caro’s Valor, Agravio y Mujer.Bulletin of Hispanic Studies, vol. 99, no. 7, July 2022, pp. 663–83.

Austin, Jodie. ““By the Knife and Fire”: Conceptions of Surgery and Disability in Early Modern Medical Treatises.” Performing Disability in Early Modern English Drama. Edited by Leslie C. Dunn. Springer International, 2021.

  • From abstract: “This chapter examines early modern medical treatises on surgery, amputation, and the treatment of combat-related wounds through the lens of disability studies. Although many such texts were intended primarily as reference guides for surgeons, they also provide insight into early modern conceptions of surgery … as processes of performative craft. … Medical treatises that dealt with amputation and prosthesis in particular reveal a striking concern for patient welfare and quality of life…. I also argue, however, that such texts betray problematic tendencies on the part of their authors to fashion themselves as arbiters of cosmetic and disabled difference based on fantasies of bodily restoration. Ultimately, this chapter makes the case for reconsidering these medical texts alongside those in the literary tradition as a means of shedding light on seventeenth-century European conceptions of disability and prosthesis and their implications for veterans in the early modern period.”

Avalos, Julio C., Jr. “The Unfinished Self: Richard’s Gender, Deformity, and Personhood in 3 Henry VI and Richard III. PSYART, 2002.

Bailey, Jess. “Disability at the Edge of War: Gendered Violence in the Graphic Practice of Urs Graf.” Disability and Art History from Antiquity to the Twenty-First Century, edited by Millett-Gallant, Ann, and Elizabeth Howie, Routledge, 2022.

  • Bailey considers the Swiss artist Urs Graf’s 1514 Armless Sex Worker in the context of contemporary wars, new firearm technology, and the injuries soldiers sustained. She reads soldiership and sex work as two lines of work that bring about the disablement those engaged in it.

Baker, Naomi. “‘Happy, and without a Name’: Prosthetic Identities on the Early Modern Stage.” Textual Practice, vol. 30, no. 7, 2016, pp. 1309-1326, doi: 10.1080/0950236X.2016.1229913.

  • Abstract: “A Larum for London and The Fair Maid of the Exchange both deploy characters who use prostheses in order to interrogate the emergent capitalist societies depicted in the plays. ‘Stump’ and ‘Cripple’, the heroes of these plays, are defined not by their bodies, or by the apparent limitations of these bodies, but by a sense of vocation, a messianic calling which dislocates them from the normative identities operating in their societies. In these plays, I argue, those who try to possess are ineffective, while those who eschew ownership, even of themselves, and seek instead to put their identities and bodies to use – those, in other words, for whom identities and bodies are fundamentally prosthetic – are able to bring about alternative forms of community.”

—. “‘To Make Love to a Deformity’: Praising Ugliness in Early Modern England.” Renaissance Studies 22, no. 1 (2008): 86–109, doi: 10.1111/j.1477-4658.2007.00479.x.

  • Abstract: “This article discusses the fashion for witty celebrations of ugly women in early seventeenth-century English literature. While apparently celebrating unconventional forms of beauty, texts ‘praising’ ugly women more accurately elevate masculine forms of artistic agency at the expense of the female body, which continues to be identified with ugly matter. Literary instances where ugliness is ‘celebrated’ work to contain the potentially threatening nature of the ugly female body. The article situates ‘deformed mistress’ texts in relation to wider early modern discourses of beauty and ugliness, discussing the extent to which categories of the artificial and the natural, in particular, are evaluated in gendered terms in this period.”

—. Plain Ugly: The Unattractive Body in Early Modern Culture. Manchester U P, 2010.

  • Abstract: “his book examines the depiction of physically ugly characters in a striking range of early modern literary and visual texts, offering fascinating insights into the ways in which ugliness and deformity were perceived and represented in the era, particularly with regard to gender and the construction of identity.”

Barmazel, Julie. “‘The Servant to Defect’: Macbeth, Impotence, and the Body Politic.” Macbeth: New Critical Essays, edited by Nick Moschovakis, Routledge, 2008, pp. 118–31.

  • Barmazel considers the royal body/body politic analogy in Macbeth in relation to suggestions in the text that Macbeth in sterile or impotent. She argues that Macbeth’s sexual dysfunction is central in “the many ways in which the play suggests a link among his physical, political, and moral disequilibria” (119).

Bassler, Samantha. “‘That Suck’d the Honey of His Music Vows’: Disability Studies in Early Modern Musicological Research.” Postmedieval, vol. 3, no. 2, 2012, pp. 182-194, doi: 10.1057/pmed.2012.9.

  • From abstract: “In this essay, I will illustrate an enhanced understanding of the role of disability in early music scholarship through exploring disability and disease in the case studies of mad songs sung by Ophelia in Hamlet and Desdemona in Othello. I will also discuss specific challenges of scholarly work in disability studies that deals with femininity and early music, and provide a methodology for avoiding these difficulties.”

—. “Madness and Music as (Dis)ability in Early Modern England,” The Oxford Handbook of Music and Disability Studies, edited by Blake Howe, Stephanie Jensen-Moulton, Neil Lerner, and Joseph Straus. Oxford U P, 2015, DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199331444.013.46.

  • From abstract: “This essay is intended to enrich understanding of how disability operated in the culture of early modern England and argues for Disability Studies as a useful tool for illuminating aspects of early modern English culture that might otherwise go unnoticed within traditional cultural analysis. It uses disability as a departure point for a more nuanced understanding of premodern culture in England, centering on case studies of music and madness and tropes of disability and gender. It argues that disability, while not understood as analogous to our modern conceptions of abnormality, was an important operational category in early modern English music and was often conflated with femininity, as evidenced in the plays of Shakespeare.”

Bates, A.W. Emblematic Monsters: Unnatural Conceptions and Deformed Births in Early Modern Europe. Rodopi, 2005.

  • Bates uses contemporary popular and scholarly texts to provide “a social history of monstrous births” in the early modern period. Bates examines anatomists’ approaches to monstrous births and the meanings that were assigned to these births. He also considers documented monstrous births alongside modern medical views of specific birth defects.

Battis, Jes. “‘No Crime to Be Bashful’: Social Anxiety in the Drama of Margaret Cavendish.” Mosaic: An Interdisciplinary Critical Journal, vol. 52, no. 2, 2019, pp. 167–84.

  • Abstract: “This essay will discuss the role of social anxiety in the work of Margaret Cavendish, with a particular emphasis on blushing, speechlessness, and what we would now call introversion. The bashfulness that she presents in her work as a ‘crimeless defect,’ I will argue, is both a form of transgressive modesty and a reaction against environmental sensitivity. In plays such as Lady Contemplation, The Presence, and Love’s Adventures, Cavendish is interested in staging various failures of communication.”

Baum, Jacob. “A Vernacular Archive of Early Modern Disability: Martin Luther’s Figurative Uses of Deafness.” The German Quarterly, vol. 96, no. 2, 2023, pp. 195-212, doi:

  • From abstract: “This essay charts a key moment in the premodern cultural history of disability by mapping out how Martin Luther talked about deafness in his vernacular works. It employs a simple keyword search methodology to the digitized version of the Weimarer Ausgabe… Analysis reveals several patterns: (1) Luther rarely said anything about living deaf people but instead used deafness figuratively to serve theological or polemical points. (2) His figurative uses of deafness can be divided into eight categories of mostly negative representations. (3) Luther was more prone to make positive or neutral associations with deafness earlier in his career, but over time, this gave way to an overwhelmingly negative picture. (4) Comparison with a sample of Luther’s Latin works suggests that similar patterns prevail across the entirety of the Weimarer Ausgabe.”

Bearden, Elizabeth B. “Before Normal, There Was Natural’: John Bulwer, Disability and Natural Signing in Early Modern England and Beyond.” PMLA 132, no. 1 (2017): 33–50, doi: 10.1632/pmla.2017.132.1.33.

  • Arguing that “[d]isability studies scholars and Renaissance scholars have much to learn from early modern schemata of disability,” Bearden examines the English physician John Bulwer’s support for sign language and the humanity, dignity, and rights of Deaf people. (from abstract)

—. “Moctezuma’s Zoo: Housing Disability in Transatlantic Travel Literature and European Courts.” Arizona Journal of Hispanic Cultural Studies, vol. 17, no. 1, 2013, pp. 161-175, doi:10.1353/hcs.2013.0019.

  • Bearden discusses the paradoxically enfreaked and honored status of disabled people at Moctezuma’s court. She argues that their position reflects the similarly paradoxical situation of Tenochtitlan itself in relation to Spain and that the universality of their disability, as something that transcends specific cultures, highlights similarities between Europeans and the Mexica.

—. Monstorous Kinds: Body, Space, and Narrative in Renaissance Representations of Disability. U of Michigan P, 2019.

  • From abstract: “Monstrous Kinds is the first book to explore textual representations of disability in the global Renaissance. Elizabeth B. Bearden contends that monstrosity, as a precursor to modern concepts of disability, has much to teach about our tendency to inscribe disability with meaning. Understanding how early modern writers approached disability not only provides more accurate genealogies of disability, but also helps nuance current aesthetic and theoretical disability formulations. The book analyzes the cultural valences of early modern disability across a broad national and chronological span, attending to the specific bodily, spatial, and aesthetic systems that contributed to early modern literary representations of disability.”

Belling, Catherine. “The Purchase of Fruitfulness: Assisted Conception and Reproductive Disability in a Seventeenth-Century Comedy.” Journal of Medical Humanities, vol. 26, no. 2, 2005, pp. 79–96,

  • Belling examines the socially constructed “relationships between socioeconomic and biogenetic reproduction” as they apply in A Chaste Maid in Cheapside. “Middleton’s satirization of the effects of secrecy on the category of reproductive disability is analyzed and its applicability to our own time considered. The discussion is in four parts, focusing on: the attribution of disabled status to one member of the couple, the wife; the use of this attribution to protect the husband’s reputation for sexual and reproductive health; the concealment of the nature of assisted reproduction; and the interests of the child conceived with such assistance” (from abstract).

Best, Royce. “Making Obesity Fat: Crip Estrangement in Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1.” Disability Studies Quarterly, vol. 39, no. 4, 4, Dec. 2019.

  • From abstract: “This article argues that the ‘play extempore’ in Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1 is a privileged site for ‘crip estrangement,’ a phenomenon that occurs in Shakespearean drama when a normate character encountering disability is featured within a metatheatrical structure. … the question of how to interpret Falstaff’s fat body takes center stage. …the scene constitutes a protracted rendering of the protocols of rhetorical representation: it estranges Falstaff’s substance … into its rhetorical parts. The scene demonstrates that Falstaff’s actual fat body is the wax (matter) that Hal’s speeches (form) attempt to impress into a substance ….. the article argues that the scene’s estrangement could also occur in performances of the play. More than merely a queer expression of fat from Falstaff, the play extempore deconstructs the representation of obesity: it ‘make[s] a stone stony’ (Shklovsky); it makes obesity fat.”

Betts, Tim, and Hannah Betts. “John Hall and His Epileptic patients—Epilepsy Management in Early 17th Century England.” Seizure, vol. 7, no. 5, 1998, pp. 411-414. DOI:10.1016/S1059-1311(05)80012-3.

Boro, Joyce. (2020). “’Lame Humor’ in Beaumont and Fletcher’s Love’s Pilgrimage.” In: Dunn, L.C. (eds) Performing Disability in Early Modern English Drama. Palgrave Macmillan.

  • Boro argues that Beaumont and Fletcher treat disability and degenerate Spanish-ness as linked in Love’s Pilgrimage, and that the play uses mockery to cope with these connected sources of anxiety for the English.

Bower, Alice. “Guðmundur Bergþórsson as Creator and Creation: A Folk Narrative Study of a 17th Century Disabled Poet.” Understanding Disability Throughout History: Interdisciplinary Perspectives in Iceland from Settlement to 1936, edited by Hanna Björg Sigurjónsdóttir and James G. Rice, pp. 146-162. Routledge, 2021.

Bowman, Megan. “Spectacular Staring: Spenser with Rosemarie Garland-Thomson.” Spenser Studies, vol. 37, 2023, pp. 95 – 118. DOI:10.1086/723099.

  • From abstract: “In the following essay, I read The Faerie Queene alongside disability theorist Rosemarie Garland-Thomson’s Staring: How We Look. …here I pay attention to scenes of spectacular bodily violence. I draw a connection between the poem’s fascination with bodily violence and the growing field of anatomy in late sixteenth-century England, which used staring to gather and create knowledge. Using examples from Books I, II, and III, I explore different kinds of staring at spectacular violence in The Faerie Queene to uncover the poem’s ethics of staring.”

Bozio, Andrew. “Timur the Lame: Marlowe, Disability, and Form.” Modern Philology, vol. 119, no. 3, Feb. 2022, pp. 354–76,

  • Bozio notes that Christopher Marlowe’s Tamburlaine demonstrates “hyperability” even though his sources for Tamburlaine do reference the historical Timur the Lame’s disability. Bozio argues that Marlowe’s departure from his sources is due to form; namely, that “Marlowe’s plays rely upon a displacement of disability to posit the extraordinary ability of their title character.” Bozio writes that Edward Alleyn’s way of performing the character contributed to this displacement and asserts that this “influence reveals the need for a theory of theatrical form.” (from abstract)

Brady, Maura. “‘Disabled’ Milton.” Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies, vol. 16, no. 2, 2022, pp. 161-177.

  • Abstract: “The article tracks the language of ‘disability’ in the writings of John Milton in an effort to broach the question of how the terminology came to refer almost exclusively in modern usage to physical or mental impairments inherent to individual subjects. It argues that Milton’s early usage points to various social incapacitations occasioned by the civil wars, and that these meanings later converge with connotations of physical and mental impairment, along with a moral strain of meaning also evident in seventeenth-century religious writings. His practice culminates with attributions of ‘disabled’ in Paradise Lost and Samson Agonistes that designate the poems’ flawed protagonists as potent sites of moral culpability and social danger.”

Brown, Pamela A. “The Mirror and the Cage: Queens and Dwarfs at the Early Modern Court.” Historical Affects and the Early Modern Theater. Routledge, 2015.

Burnett, Mark Thornton. Constructing Monsters in Shakespeare’s Drama and Early Modern Culture. Palgrave Macmillan UK, 2002.

  • Froom abstract: “…argues for the crucial place of the ‘monster’ in the early modern imagination. Burnett traces the metaphorical significance of ‘monstrous’ forms across a range of early modern exhibition spaces … to contend that the ‘monster’ finds its most intriguing manifestation in … contemporary theatre. The study’s new readings of Shakespeare, Marlowe and Jonson make a powerful case for the drama’s contribution to debates about the ‘extraordinary body’.”

Carter, Matthew. “Embodiment and Disability in 3 Henry VI and Richard III.” SEL: Studies in English Literature 1500-1900, vol. 61, no. 1, 2021, pp. 23–43.

  • Carter “argue[s] that Richard’s choice of weapon, a falchion, offers new insight into how Shakespeare represents disability in the two plays. Because the weapon was often used to flay kills during hunts, I argue that Richard curtails other bodies and adds their biomass to his own. Doing so allows Richard to blur the lines between his body and those of others, turning ableism against itself to raise him to the English throne” (from abstract).

—. ““Turn it to a Crutch”: Disability and Swordsmanship in the Little French Lawyer.” Performing Disability in Early Modern English Drama. Edited by Leslie C. Dunn. Springer International, 2021.

Cazan, Roxana. “‘What Shall We Hear of This’: Understanding Judgment, Epilepsy in William Shakespeare’s Tragedies.” Neophilologus, vol. 98, no. 3, 2014, pp. 503–16,

  • Cazan argues “that Renaissance audiences and writers such as William Shakespeare recognized brain damage, particularly epilepsy, as depriving the individual of self-control” and that “reading brain afflictions such as epilepsy in Shakespeare’s tragedies opens them up to a wider readership and spectatorship, who understand mental disturbance as an ‘evil thing.'” (from abstract)

Cefalu, Paul. “The Doubting Disease: Religious Scrupulosity and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in Historical Context.” Journal of Medical Humanities, vol. 31, no. 2, June 2010, pp. 111–25.

  • Aiming “to point out some of the limitations of current DSM criteria when attempting retrospectively to diagnose historical figures with mental pathology,” Cefalu notes that the OCD-like traits exhibited by various early modern writers were not often experienced by these writers as disabling or seen by their contemporaries as pathological.

Chakravarti, Paromita. “Folly and Androgyny: Shakespeare’s King Lear.Renaissance Themes: Essays Presented to  Arun Kumar Das Gupta, edited by Sukanta Chaudhuri et al., Anthem, 2009, pp. 80–97.

—. “‘I Have No Other but a Woman’s Reason’: Folly, Femininity and Sexuality in Renaissance Discourses and Shakespeare’s Plays.” The Shakespearean International Yearbook, 1st ed., vol. 8, Routledge, 2008, pp. 136–61,

  • From abstract: “Demonstrating the complexity of the relationship of folly and femininity in Renaissance culture this chapter attempts to question the either/or constructions of the feminist historiography of madness. It addresses the semantic and ideological multivalency of the term ‘folly’ particularly in its application to women, considering with that the categories of unreason, femininity or female sexuality are not ahistorical or fixed but evolving through their locations in specific cultural, political and historical contexts and socio-linguistic registers. In Shakespeare’s plays too, it is men rather than women who fail to discriminate.”

—. “Natural Fools and the Historiography of Renaissance Folly.” Renaissance Studies, vol. 25, no. 2, 2011, pp. 208–27. JSTOR,

Chess, Simone. “Contented Cuckolds: Infertility and Queer Reproductive Practice in Middleton’s A Chaste Maid in Cheapside and Machiavelli’s Mandragola.” Performing Disability in Early Modern English Drama. Edited by Leslie C. Dunn. Springer International, 2021.

  • Chess argues that Middleton’s Chaste Maid and Machiavelli’s Mandragola “demonstrate that early modern authors saw a connection between infertility and disability by explicitly medicalizing infertile bodies and barren couples in ways that mark them as disabled. …. Presented superficially as a problem, infertile/disabled bodies actually open up new textual possibilities for queering marriage, sex, reproductive practice, and family structures.”

—. “Opting out: Anorexia, Asexuality, and Early Modern Women.” Early Modern Women, vol. 15, no. 1, 2020, pp. 119–30.

  • Chess argues that, “even as it is medicalized and pathologized as a disability, self-starvation appears to have been a way to articulate some women’s queer preference for asexuality and to model, however briefly, how that asexuality might be put into practice in a culture heavily oriented toward (cis/allo/hetero)sexuality, marriage, and reproduction.”

—. “Performing Blindness: Representing Disability in Early Modern Popular Performance and Print.” Recovering Disability in Early Modern England, edited by Allison P. Hobgood and David Houston Wood, Ohio State U P, 2013, pp. 105–22,

Choate, Evan. “Misreading Impotence in Richard III.” Modern Philology, vol. 117, no. 1, 2019, pp. 24–47.

  • Choate considers the suggestion of sexual impotence in Richard’s statement that he “cannot prove a lover” and argues that “there is good reason to think of Richard’s ostensibly deformed body as exaggerating a material flaccidity that both exploits and thwarts traditional assumptions about corporeality and capacity” (Web, n.p.).

Clark, Gloria B. “Juan Ruiz De Alarcón: Impairment as Empowerment in Early Modern Spain.” Hispania, vol. 99, no. 1, 2016, pp. 103-115, doi: 10.1353/hpn.2016.0005.

  • Clark discusses Juan Ruiz De Alarcón, a writer of comedias in the 17th-century Hispanic world who “struggled with a significant bodily impairment, a large hump on both his back and front, which made him the target of much attention and scorn from his fellow writers and others in society.” Focusing on how impairment is treated in three of Ruiz De Alarcón’s plays, the author argues that “disability theory opens a way to explore the woven fabric of Ruiz de Alarcón’s life and works. Both the themes and the characters in his popular comedias trace how his embodiment and experiences influenced his depiction of imperfections.” (from abstract)

Clark, Rachel E. ““Lame Doings”: Amputation, Impotence, and Community in The Shoemaker’s Holiday and A Larum for London.” Amputation in Literature and Film. Springer International, 2021.

  • Clark “demonstrates that the amputees in The Shoemaker’s Holiday and A Larum for London do not signify moral degeneracy or evildoing but rather demonstrate valor and the power of male communities during a time of war” and argues that disability is represented “as an everyday middle-class experience of powerlessness” through characters’ impotence (Web, n.p.).

Cock, Emily. “Facial Disfigurement, Madness, and the Royal Touch in Early Modern Britain: Reconsidering Arise Evans.” Disability Studies Quarterly, vol. 42, No. 3-4, 2022, n.p.

  • Cock discusses how Arise Evans’s “historical reputation has been strongly influenced by his prophecies, his sometimes unusual behaviour, and his apparent indulgence by authorities, which led some contemporaries and later scholars to dismiss him as ‘mad’,” “looks afresh at Evans’ reputation for madness, and in particular how it affected his attempt to seek treatment for an upsetting facial disfigurement,” and “argue[s] that historians’ focus on medicalised interpretations of Evans’ mind and body have overshadowed Evans’ own understanding and experience of facial disfigurement and seeing visions, and his resistance to naturalistic interpretations of his body and mind in favour of divine will,” as well as that “we have subsequently missed out on the utility of Evans’ experience for understanding the variably disabling effects of physical and mental differences in early modern Britain” (n.p.).

Cockayne, Emily. “Experiences of the Deaf in Early Modern England.” The Historical Journal, vol. 46, no. 3, 2003, pp. 493-510, doi:10.1017/S0018246X03003121.

  • From abstract: “This article explores the extent to which the deaf were socially integrated in English society between the mid-sixteenth and mid-eighteenth centuries. It also assesses the disadvantages suffered by those born deaf, or who lost their hearing. Crucial to the discussion is an understanding that experiences were not uniform, as the term deafness covered a wide spectrum of conditions, from temporary hearing loss to profound congenital deafness. …disadvantages were more to do with traditional social divisions of wealth and status, rather than the extent of their hearing impairment. Fundamentally, the most inhibiting factor was an inability to apprehend words.”

Cockett, Peter. “Performing Natural Folly: The Jests of Lean Leanard and the Touchstones of Robert Armin and David Tennant.” New Theatre Quarterly, vol. 22, no. 2, 2006, pp. 141–54.

  • Cockett argues that the comic actor Robert Armin’s jestbook Foole Upon Foole was “a serious attempt to survey the variety of qualities and conditions of natural folly. It not only reveals much about Armin’s likely approach to his roles, but questions the conventional distinctions between the natural and the artificial fool. With close reference to Armin’s description of one of his subjects, Lean Leanard, Peter Cockett compares what this tells us about Armin’s possible approach to the role of Touchstone with the problems faced by the actor, David Tennant, in the RSC As You Like It of 1996″ (from abstract).

Coker, Lauren. “Boy Actors and Early Modern Disability Comedy in The Knight of the Burning Pestle and Epicœne.” Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism, vol. 31, no. 1, 2016, pp. 5–21,

  • From abstract: “These comedies render bodies, by way of feigned disability, performative. But locales for disability also become fluid: the stage attempts to depict places for the disabled … without any physical reconstruction of the space. On the early modern stage, the lack of spatial reconstruction disregards how someone with a disabled body must navigate spaces framed around the able-bodied. Disabled identities and spaces manifest only through language. Audiences fail to see distinctions between the bare stage and minimal props used to distinguish them from spheres for the able-bodied.”

—. “Disability and the ‘Spectacle of Strangeness’: The Construction of Hags in The Masque of Queenes.” Ben Jonson Journal, vol. 26, no. 2, 2019, pp. 253–63,

—. “‘There Is No Suff’ring Due’: Metatheatricality and Disability Drag in Volpone.” Recovering Disability in Early Modern England, edited by Allison P. Hobgood and David Houston Wood, The Ohio State U P, 2013. DOI: 10.2307/j.ctv17260bx.12.

Compagnoni, Michela. “Poor Tom and the Linguistic Performance of Monstrosity in King Lear.” Cahiers Élisabéthains: A Journal of English Renaissance Studies, vol. 101, no. 1, 2020, pp. 65–84.

  • From abstract: “This article argues that Poor Tom transcends the cultural representations of the Bedlamites, inasmuch as his liminality and otherness turn him into a monstrous creature. Tom’s monstrosity emerges from his language rather than his appearance or actions. Close readings reveal how the fashioning of Tom in 2.2 is anticipated by Edmund’s and Gloucester’s words, which foretell the metaphorical self-birth whereby Edgar delivers his own monstrous alter ego through language, in a multifaceted linguistic performance made of overlapping voices that are monstrous in structure and content.”

Covey, Herbert. “Shakespeare on Old Age and Disability.” The International Journal of Aging and Human Development, vol. 50, no. 3, Apr. 2000, pp. 169–83.

Crawford, Katherine. Eunuchs and Castrati: Disability and Normativity in Early Modern Europe. Routledge, 2019.

Curtin, Adrian. “Dumb Reading: The Noise of the Mute in Jonson’s Epicene.” Comparative Drama, vol. 43, no. 1, 2009, pp. 45–62, doi: 10.1353/cdr.0.0047.

  • Curtin analyzes the silent gestural communication of Mute, from Jonson’s Epicoene, and Lavinia, from Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, to argue that gestures made in dumb shows can have a disruptive effect on the given sonic environment.

Dasgupta, Deyasini. “‘Black, Wicked, and Unnatural’: Locating Monstrosity in The Revenger’s Tragedy.” The Theatrical Legacy of Thomas Middleton, 1624–2024, edited by William David Green et al., Routledge, 2024.

  • From abstract: “In a play where recognisably ‘monstrous’ bastards, panders, and dukes abound, the audience finds themselves drawn ever more into narratives of ‘black, wicked, and unnatural’ habits. By underscoring some of the play’s deployment of psychological and physiological markers of ‘blackness’, this chapter identifies processes of racialisation in Middleton’s works.”

Dawson, Lesel. “Daggers of the Mind: Hallucinations, Mental Fixation and Trauma in Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy and Early Modern Psychology.” Visions and Voice-Hearing in Medieval and Early Modern Contexts, edited by Hilary Powell and Corinne Saunders, Springer International, 2021, pp. 221–54. Springer Link,

  • Dawson examines the related roles of hallucinations, mental fixation, and trauma in early modern culture, arguing, first, “that in Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy and Shakespeare’s Macbeth visual and aural disturbances operate as self-reflexive tools for thought that reveal the seer’s mind to itself,” and, second, “that an understanding of mental fixation explains the therapeutic aspect of vengeance in Renaissance plays.” (from abstract)

Desai, Adhaar Noor. “Robert Armin’s ‘Blue John,’ Early Modern Disability, and the Public Punchline.” Publicity and the Early Modern Stage: People Made Public, edited by Allison K. Deutermann et al., Springer International, 2021, pp. 119–47.

  • From abstract: “This chapter studies a figure within Robert Armin’s clowning repertoire, “Blue John,” and asks how the media environment of early modern theatrical culture intersected with and helped shaped views of cognitive disability. … By recirculating Blue John as an impression audiences could take up and extend, Armin participates in making cognitive disability imitable and assignable as an insult, and so self-consciously not identifiable with the bodies upon which the role is cast. Armin’s public punchline demonstrates how theatrical media’s porous boundaries can publicize individuals—making celebrities by making jokes—but can thereby build publics that deny full participation to the very individuals around whom those publics are constituted.”

Dhar, Amrita. “Shakespeare, Race, and Disability: Othello and the Wheeling Strangers of Here and Everywhere.” The Oxford Handbook of Shakespeare and Race, edited by Patricia Akhimie. Oxford U P, 2024, pp. 171-192.

  • From abstract: “This chapter discusses Othello through critical and creative voices in postcolonial studies, migration studies, premodern critical race studies, and disability studies to examine the mutually informing forces of colonialism, empire-making, disability-making, and race-making that operate in the play. It reads selected moments in Shakespeare’s play, and engages with Toni Morrison and Rokia Traoré’s Desdemona, to ultimately suggest possible pasts, presents, and futures for Othello and his transgeographical families.”

—. “Seeing Feelingly: Sight and Service in King Lear.” Disability, Health, and Happiness in the Shakespearean Body. Edited by Sujata Iyengar. Routledge, 2015, pp. 76-92. DOI:10.4324/9781315753119.

—. “When They Consider How Their Light Is Spent: Intersectional Race and Disability Studies in the Classroom.” Teaching Race in the European Renaissance: A Classroom Guide, edited by Matthieu Chapman and Anna Wainwright, ACMRS Press, 2023, n.p.,

  • Focusing on John Milton’s “When I consider how my light is spent” and Tyehimba Jess’s “When I consider how my life is spent,” Dhar’s “essay is a reflection and an account of how the compressed power of these sonnets can be used pedagogically to interrogate ideas of physical ability, race, agency, and justice” (n.p.).

Diaz, Sara E. “Exceptional Bodies and Ludic Lovers: Humor, Disability, and the Grotesque in Margherita Costa’s Lettere Amorose (1639).” Early Modern Women: An Interdisciplinary Journal, vol. 16, no. 2, Mar. 2022, pp. 265–88.

Dirks, Whitney. Monstrosity, Bodies, and Knowledge in Early Modern England: Curiosity to See and Behold. Amsterdam University Press, 2024.

  • From abstract: “This book ties together social and medical history, Disability Studies, and Monster Studies to argue that people discussed unusual bodies in early modern England because they provided newsworthy entertainment, revealed the will of God, and demonstrated the internal workings of Nature.”

Doubler, Catherine E. “‘Gambol Faculties’ and ‘Halting Bravery’: Falstaff, Will Kemp, and Impaired Masculinity.” Disability, Health, and Happiness in the Shakespearean Body. Ed. Sujata Iyengar. Routledge, 2015. 142-157.

Dunn, Leslie, editor. Performing Disability in Early Modern English Drama. Springer Nature, 2021.

Duquette, Kelly. “Disabled for England: Crip/Queer Veterans in Henry V.” Shakespeare, [full issue forthcoming], 2023,

  • Abstract: “This essay considers the unique challenges that would likely follow Shakespearean veterans like Falstaff and Henry V’s Agincourt soldiers after a life of military action. I explore the historical context of an increasing homeless population to argue that England’s treatment of veterans, as evidenced in national legislation, offers insights into early modern understandings of gender, disability, and vagrancy. In the martial rhetoric of Shakespeare’s Henry V, however, the promise of combat injury and the soldier’s willingness to accept a disability future ensures his present claims to martial masculinity on the battlefield. Paradoxically, however, in accepting this future, the disabled veteran becomes vulnerable to heteronormative characterizations of queerness associated with amputation and rogue sexualities, a likely reality for an overwhelming number of injured servicemen returning home to England after war abroad.”

Duran, Angelica. “Comment from the Field: John Milton and Disability Studies in Literature Courses.” Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies, vol. 6, no. 3, 2012, pp. 327-340, doi: 10.3828/jlcds.2012.26.

Eaton, Scott. “Witchcraft and Deformity in Early Modern English Literature.” The Seventeenth Century, vol. 35, no. 6, 2020, pp. 815–28,

  • Eaton examines early modern texts concerning witchcraft and “argue[s] that the concept of deformity played a role in witchcraft texts and accusations, for it distinguished individuals as evil based on their physical appearance. Operating alongside and interacting with other motifs, it functioned as a literary device which further demonised characters and signified their otherness.” (from abstract)

Ehrnstine, Glenn. “Foolectomies, Fool Enemas, and the Renaissance Anatomy of Folly.” Fecal Matters in Early Modern Literature and Art, edited by Jeff Persels and Russell Ganim, Routledge, 2004, pp. 96–108.

  • Ehrnstine “examines the melding of moral and medical discourse as found in the physical treatment of folly in four satirical works” from early-sixteenth-century Germany. He argues that these treatments for folly “reveal contemporary popular conceptions of the physical body as a religious, social, or political construct.” (p. 97)

Eilola, Jari. “Defining and Treating Madness in Local Communities of Early Modern Finland.” Encountering Crises of the Mind: Madness, Culture and Society, 1200s-1900s, edited by Tuomas Laine-Frigren et al., Brill, 2018, pp. 69–87,

Equestri, Alice. Literature and Intellectual Disability in Early Modern England: Folly, Law and Medicine, 1500-1640. Routledge, 2021.

—. “Shakespeare and the Construction of Intellectual Disability: The Case of Touchstone.” Disability Studies Quarterly, vol. 40, no. 4, 2020, n.p.,

  • Equestri “analyse[s] how Shakespeare uses early modern paradigms of intellectual disability to construct the identity of Touchstone…. Although Touchstone is no real fool but simply performs like one, his actions and mocking reflections on the characters he faces expose how Shakespeare was very well acquainted with socio-legal and even medical definitions of natural folly in his time. A reading of the character as a natural fool according to specific paradigms of the period further reveals how Touchstone enacts an expanded ‘complex embodiment’ of disability.” (from abstract)

—. “‘This Cold Night Will Turn Us All to Fools and Madmen’: Feste, Lear’s Fool and the Border between ‘Idiocy’ and Mental Illness.” Cahiers Élisabéthains: A Journal of English Renaissance Studies, vol. 99, no. 1, 2019, pp. 23–32.

  • Noting that folly and madness were treated as distinct in early modern legal and medical discourses and yet are treated as more or less indistinct in Twelfth Night, Equestri “considers some of these interactions to discuss the ways in which fools as intellectually disabled individuals are separated from madmen as mentally ill, while also assessing how occasionally ‘idiocy’ borders into madness” (from abstract).

—. “Wandering Fools and Foolish Vagrants: Folly on the Road in Early Modern English Culture.” Reading the Road, from Shakespeare’s Crossways to Bunyan’s Highways, Edinburgh U P, 2020.

  • Equestri describes the prominence of roads and wandering in early modern depictions of fools and discusses how and why “[t]he concept of folly interacts with vagrancy and mobility on early modern roads” (from abstract).

Escolme, Bridget. “Ophelia Confined: Madness and Infantilisation in Some Versions of Hamlet.” Performance, Madness and Psychiatry: Isolated Acts, edited by Anna Harpin and Juliet Foster, Palgrave Macmillan, 2014, pp. 165–86.

Felek, Özgen. “Epilepsy as a “Contagious” Disease in the Late Medieval and Early Modern Ottoman World.” Plague and Contagion in the Islamic Mediterranean. Edited by NÜKHET VARLIK, 2017. pp. 153 – 176.

Folkerth, Wes. “Reading Shakespeare After Neurodiversity.” Performing Disability in Early Modern English Drama, edited by Leslie C. Dunn. Springer International, 2021, pp. 141–57,

  • From abstract: “Reading ‘Shakespeare after neurodiversity’ means reading the characters in his plays, especially the many fools and clowns, with an eye to the diversity of their individual personhoods. The chapter begins with a reading of Robert Armin’s catalogue of fools in his Foole Upon Foole (1600), and continues by discussing the variable speeds of wit in The Two Gentlemen of Verona. … …Shakespeare positions the audience in the subject position of the fool, enabling them to understand what fools are not only by watching them on stage, but also by undergoing the experience of foolishness themselves.”

Gabel, Tobias. “Hierarchies of Vision in John Milton’s Paradise Lost“. The Five Senses in Medieval and Early Modern England. Brill, 2016.

Gainey, Evyan Dale. “Tamburlaine, Able-Bodiedness, and the Skills of the Early Modern Player.” Renaissance Drama 51.2 (2023): 111-134. DOI:

Gan, Linhan. “Shakespeare’s Clarence: The Medieval Shell-Shocked Soldier.” Critical Survey, vol. 33, no. 3/4, Sept. 2021, pp. 62–78.

  • From abstract: “This article argues that Shakespeare’s George of Clarence is a war veteran traumatised by his wartime experience, and that he can be regarded as a prototype of the modern shell-shocked soldier. …it explores how Clarence becomes traumatised through a trajectory of degradation of personality…”

Garrison, J.S. (2019). “Blindness and Posthuman Sexuality in Paradise Lost.” In: Godden, R., Mittman, A. (eds) Monstrosity, Disability, and the Posthuman in the Medieval and Early Modern World. Palgrave Macmillan.

  • Garrison “examines the intersection of monstrosity and sexuality in John Milton’s Paradise Lost in order to reveal connections between supernatural coupling and disability within the epic poem.” He writes that the poem “celebrates not only the inability to recognize others but also the sexual coupling of non-normative bodies,” and ultimately suggests that the poet’s depictions of angelic erotic coupling constitute a celebration of interpersonal relations devoid of visual recognition.” (from abstract)

Geil, Melissa H. (2019). The Monstrous Womb of Early Modern Midwifery Manuals. In: Godden, R., Mittman, A. (eds) Monstrosity, Disability, and the Posthuman in the Medieval and Early Modern World. Palgrave Macmillan.

—. “Mutism and Feminine Silence: Gender, Performance, and Disability in Epicoene.” Performing Disability in Early Modern English Drama, edited by Leslie C. Dunn. Springer International, 2021.

  • From abstract: “This chapter examines the slippage of language in the early modern period between muteness and silence in women; between cognitive, psychological, and linguistic impairments and ideal feminine behavior. First, by considering two accounts of early modern women … who experienced what we now may call selective mutism or dumbness, this chapter argues that these narratives articulate a connection between incidents of mutism and didactic accounts of virtuous women’s elective silence. The chapter then looks at … Epicoene, which uniquely presents how female silence and female muteness overlap in considerations of feminine performance in the early modern period. Examining the intersection of female mutism and female silence allows us to consider the richly varied experiences and expectations of women in the early modern period and how their narratives are often framed by male interlocutors, and permits us to see where moments of subversion, contradiction, and resistance open up space for women to communicate their own messages and challenge these narratives.”

—. “Reproducing Paper Monsters in Thomas Nashe.” The Age of Thomas Nashe: Text, Bodies and Trespasses of Authorship in Early Modern England. edited by Stephen Guy-Bray and Joan Pong Linton, 2013.

  • Geil notes that “[o]ne of the ways in which Thomas Nashe fashions himself as an author draws upon the well-worn metaphor of textual reproduction: the printed book is the progeny of the author, whose authorial persona is embodied by their own works,” and discusses Nashe’s characterization of his own print progeny as monstrous.

Giuffra, V., et al. “Rickets in a High Social Class of Renaissance Italy: The Medici Children.” International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, vol. 25, no. 5, 2015, pp. 608-624, DOI:10.1002/oa.2324.

Goodey, C. F. A History of Intelligence and “Intellectual Disability”: The Shaking of Psychology in Early Modern Europe. Ashgate, 2011.

—. “Exclusion from the Eucharist: The Re-Shaping of Idiocy in the Seventeenth-Century Church.” Intellectual Disability: A Conceptual History, 1200-1900, edited by Patrick McDonagh et al., Manchester U P, 2018, pp. 80–103.

—. “Foolishness’ in Early Modern Modern Medicine and the Concept of Intellectual Disability.” Medical History 48 (2004): 289–310, doi: 10.1017/S002572730000764X.

—. “From Natural Disability to the Moral Man: Calvinism and the History of Psychology.” History of the Human Sciences, vol. 14, no. 3, 2001, pp. 1–29.

  • Abstract: “Some theologians in the French Reformed Church during the 17th century supported the concept that people with disabled intelligence were not morally defective and were therefore free of natural law’s constraints. This was an early version of the natural history of mind developed later in that century.”

—. “Where the Wild Things Were: Victor of Aveyron and the Pre-Emptive Critique of Developmental Disability in the Early Modern Novel.” Social History of Medicine, vol. 30, no. 4, 2017, pp. 807–26, doi: 10.1093/shm/hkx036.

  • From abstract: “The history of psychology, with its notions of ‘development’, has returned regularly to Victor of Aveyron. … What has not been noted is that he has some deficient fictional predecessors too. The present article looks closely at these and sets him in their context. Alongside Victor, as a paradigm case for the early history of psychiatry, three seminal early modern novels are considered, two German and one English: Simplicius Simplicissimus, Wilhelm Meister’s Years of Apprenticeship and Tristram Shandy.”

Gottlieb, Christine M. “‘Unaccomodated Man’: Dismodernism and Disability Justice in King Lear.Disability Studies Quarterly, vol. 38, no. 4, Dec. 2018,

  • From abstract: “Analyzing three of Lear’s significant speeches, I argue that King Lear’s exploration of what it means to be human anticipates Lennard Davis’s recent theoretical concept, dismodernism. … Through considering King Lear in relation to early modern contexts and current Disability Studies theory and activism, I argue that the play is an important site for developing a socially conscious Shakespearean Disability Studies.”

Growing, Laura. Common Bodies: Women, Touch, and Power in Seventeenth-Century England. Yale U P, 2003, doi: 10.2307/j.ctv1pzk6gh.

Gruber von Arni, Eric. Justice to the Maimed Soldier: Nursing, Medical Care and Welfare for Sick and Wounded Soldiers and Their Families during the English Civil Wars And Interregnum, 1642-1660. Routledge, 2017.

  • From abstract: “In this ground breaking study, it is argued that both sides involved in the civil wars that ravaged the British Isles during the mid seventeenth century made concerted efforts to provide medical care for their sick and wounded troops. Through the use of extensive archival sources, Dr Gruber von Arni has pieced together the history of the welfare provided by both Parliamentarian and Royalist causes, and analyses the effectiveness of the systems they set up.”

Gutierrez-Dennehy, Christina. Kingship, Madness, and Masculinity on the Early Modern Stage: Mad World, Mad Kings. Taylor and Francis, 2021, doi:10.4324/9781003165439.

Habinek, Lianne. “Altered States: Hamlet and Early Modern Head Trauma.” Embodied Cognition and Shakespeare’s Theatre: The Early Modern Body-Mind, edited by Laurie Johnson et al., Routledge, 2014, pp. 207–27,

  • Habinek argues that Hamlet is a play that tries to make sense of head trauma.

Hausse, Heidi. “Bones of Contention: The Decision to Amputate in Early Modern Germany.” The Sixteenth Century Journal, vol. 47, no. 2, 2016, pp. 327-350.

  • From abstract: “…this article uncovers a process of negotiation that took place during diagnosis and prognosis…. Medical reasoning entered a volatile social space in order to determine the best course of action. The opinions of medical colleagues, patients, family members, friends, and even pastors were crucial to the formation of a shared consensus necessary to undertake a procedure. Amputation was a collective endeavor guided as much by communal concerns as by medical ones.”

—. The Malleable Body: Surgeons, Artisans, and Amputees in Early Modern Germany. Manchester U P, 2023.

  • Abstract: “This book uses amputation and prostheses to tell a new story about medicine and embodied knowledge-making in early modern Europe. It draws on the writings of craft surgeons and learned physicians to follow the heated debates that arose from changing practices of removing limbs, uncovering tense moments in which decisions to operate were made. Importantly, it teases out surgeons’ ideas about the body embedded in their technical instructions. This unique study also explores the material culture of mechanical hands that amputees commissioned locksmiths, clockmakers, and other artisans to create, revealing their roles in developing a new prosthetic technology. Over two centuries of surgical and artisanal interventions emerged a growing perception, fundamental to biomedicine today, that humans could alter the body — that it was malleable.”

Heaton, Kenneth W. “Body-Conscious Shakespeare: Sensory Disturbances in Troubled Characters.” Medical Humanities, vol. 37, no. 2, 2011, pp. 97. doi:

Hechler, Ryan Scott. “The Fourth Lifeway: Recognizing the Legacy of Bodily Difference and Disability within the Inka Empire.” Disability Studies Quarterly, vol. 41, no. 4, 4, 2021.

Hellerstedt, Andreas. “‘Somewhat heated, quick and lively:’ Humoral Explanations of the Learning Difficulties of Charles XI of Sweden (1655–1697).” Health and Society in Early Modern Sweden, edited by Mari Eyice and Charlotta Forss.

Henderson, Olivia. “‘Like A Dull Actor Now I Have Forgot My Part’: Coriolanus and Shakespearean Autism.” Shakespeare Studies 50 (2022): 126-152.

Hile, Rachel E. “Disability and the Characterization of Katherine in The Taming of the Shrew.” Disability Studies Quarterly, vol. 29, no. 4, 2009.

  • From abstract: “…no scholar has analyzed the role of disability in Katherine’s feelings of alienation and her ultimate transformation. … This article analyzes the references to Katherine’s limp in adaptations of the play during the 17th and 18th centuries, considering the significance of retaining these references even when stage productions of the plays have not included representation of a disabled Katherine.  The article then discusses the ways that visual representation of a disabled Katherine in performance might affect interpretations of the meaning of the play, including attention to a 2008 production of the play in which the actress playing Katherine performed the role with a limp.”

—. “Disabling Allegories in Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene.” Recovering Disability in Early Modern England, edited by Allison P. Hobgood and David Houston Wood, Ohio State U P, 2013, pp. 88–104.

Hirschmann, Nancy J. “Freedom and (Dis)Ability in Early Modern Political Thought.” Recovering Disability in Early Modern England, edited by Allison P. Hobgood and David Houston Wood, Ohio State U P, 2013, pp. 167–86.

Heetderks, Angela. “‘Better a Witty Fool than a Foolish Wit’: Song, Fooling, and Intellectual Disability in Shakespearean Drama.” Gender and Song in Early Modern England, edited by Leslie C. Dunn and Katherine R. Larson. Ashgate, 2014, pp. 63–75.

Hobgood, Allison P. Beholding Disability in Renaissance England. U of Michigan P, 2021. doi: 10.3998/mpub.11741095.

—. “Caesar Hath the Falling Sickness: The Legibility of Early Modern Disability in Shakespearean Drama.” Disability Studies Quarterly, vol. 29, no. 4, 2009,

Hobgood, Allison P. and David Houston Wood. “Coda: Shakespearean Disability Pedagogy.” Recovering Disability in Early Modern England. Edited by Hobgood, Allison P. and David Houston Wood. DOI: 10.2307/j.ctv17260bx.16.

—. “Introduction: Ethical Staring: Disabling the English Renaissance.” Recovering Disability in Early Modern England, edited by Allison P. Hobgood and David Houston Wood, Ohio State U P, 2013, pp. 1–22.

—. “Disabled Shakespeares.” Disability Studies Quarterly, 29, no. 4 (Fall 2009).

—. “Early Modern Literature and Disability Studies.” The Cambridge Companion to Literature and Disability. Cambridge U P, 2017.

—. Recovering Disability in Early Modern England, editors. Ohio State U P, 2013.

  • From abstract: “While early modern selfhood has been explored during the last two decades via a series of historical identity studies involving class, race and ethnicity, and gender and sexuality, until very recently there has been little engagement with disability and disabled selves in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England. This omission is especially problematic insofar as representations of disabled bodies and minds serve as some of the signature features in English Renaissance texts. Recovering Disability in Early Modern England explores how recent conversations about difference in the period have either overlooked or misidentified disability representations. It also presents early modern disability studies as a new theoretical lens that can reanimate scholarly dialogue about human variation and early modern subjectivities even as it motivates more politically invested classroom pedagogies.”

—. “Teeth Before Eyes: Impairment and Invisibility in Shakespeare’s Richard III.” Disability, Health, and Happiness in the Shakespearean Body, edited by Sujata Iyengar, Routledge, 2014, pp. 23–40.

Ihinger, Kelsey J. “’Ojos Que no Ven’: Gendered Blindness in María De Zayas’s Desengaños Amorosos.” Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies, vol. 20, no. 1, 2020, pp. 29-123.

Iyengar, Sujata, editor. Disability, Health, and Happiness in the Shakespearean Body. Routledge, 2014.

  • From abstract: “This book considers early modern and postmodern ideals of health, vigor, ability, beauty, well-being, and happiness, uncovering and historicizing the complex negotiations among physical embodiment, emotional response, and communally-sanctioned behavior in Shakespeare’s literary and material world. The volume visits a series of questions about the history of the body and how early modern cultures understand physical ability or vigor, emotional competence or satisfaction, and joy or self-fulfillment.”

Janssen, Diederik F. “Puer Barbatus: Precocious Puberty in Early Modern Medicine.” Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, vol. 76, no. 1, Jan. 2021, pp. 20–52.

Jardine, Lisa. “Dosing the Ailing Subject: Reconnecting Early Modern Health and Thought.” Testimonies: States of Mind and States of the Body in the Early Modern Period, edited by Gideon Manning, Springer, 2020, pp. 19–39.

Johns, Geoffrey A. “A ‘Grievous Burthen’ Richard III and the Legacy of Monstrous Birth.” Disability, Health, and Happiness in the Shakespearean Body, edited by Sujata Iyengar, 2014, pp. 41–57,

Johnson, Nicholas L. “The Paradox of Chivalric Madness: Ariosto’s and Cervantes’s Madness Representations’ Impact on Disability Representation.” Humanities, vol. 13, no. 3, 3, June 2024, p. 87.

  • Abstract: “This study investigates the connection between madness and critiques of the chivalric romance genre in two late Renaissance works, Ludovico Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso and Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quijote de la Mancha. The satire of chivalric romance in these works of fiction caution against nascent modes of thinking in imperial societies for the implementation of chivalric ideas to inspire and promote imperial conquests in Latin America through juxtaposition with the Muslim and Moorish conquest in the Maghreb and through metaphorical island governance. In order to make such critiques, these novels implement the madness of their parodic knights to disguise their critiques. This practice establishes a precedent which later literature can employ to make sociocultural critique covertly, to the detriment of disability representations as literary devices or metaphors.”

Johnston, Mark Albert. “Prosthetic Absence in Ben Jonson’s ‘Epicoene’, ‘The Alchemist’, and ‘Bartholmew Fair.’” English Literary Renaissance, vol. 37, no. 3, 2007, pp. 401–28,

Juárez-Almendros, Encarnación. “The Autobiography of the Aching Body in Teresa de Cartagena’s Arboleda de Los Enfermos.” Disability Studies: Enabling the Humanities, edited by Sharon L. Snyder et al., Modern Language Association of America, 2002, pp. 131–43.

—. Disabled Bodies in Early Modern Spanish Literature: Prostitutes, Aging Women and Saints. Liverpool U P, 2017, doi: 10.2307/j.ctt1ps32vm.

  • Abstract: “This study examines the concepts and role of women in selected Spanish discourses and literary texts from the late fifteenth to seventeenth centuries from the perspective of feminist disability theories, concluding that paradoxically, femininity, bodily afflictions, and mental instability characterized the new literary heroes at the very time Spain was at the apex of its imperial power.”

Kaminska, Barbara A. Images of Miraculous Healing in the Early Modern Netherlands. Brill, 2022.

  • Abstract: “Images of Miraculous Healing in the Early Modern Netherlands explores the ways in which paintings and prints of biblical miracles shaped viewers’ approaches to physical and sensory impairments and bolstered their belief in supernatural healing and charitable behavior. Drawing upon a vast range of sources, Barbara Kaminska demonstrates that visual imagery held a central place in premodern disability discourses, and that the exegesis of New Testament miracle stories determined key attitudes toward the sick and the poor. Addressed to middle-class collectors, many of the images analyzed in this study have hitherto been neglected by art historians.”

—. “Mute Painting: Deafness and Speechlessness in the Theory and Historiography of Dutch Art.” Journal of Historians of Netherlandish Art 16:1 (Winter 2024) DOI: 10.5092/jhna.2024.16.1.3.

  • Abstract: “The lives and careers of deaf and mute painters in the early modern Netherlands challenge the perception of disabled artists as self-taught outsiders and the assumption that a premodern experience of disability must have necessarily resulted in poverty and exclusion. Rather than approaching deafness and speechlessness as marginalizing “defects,” I propose to regard them as categories that allow us to reconsider how painting was understood in the seventeenth century. As part of that discourse, this article also examines the idea of sensory compensation, including its roots and impact on theory and historiography of art.

—. “Picturing Miracles: Biblical Healings in the Paintings by Pieter Aertsen and Joachim Beuckelaer.” Explorations in Renaissance Culture, vol. 45, no. 2, 2020, pp. 140-170, doi:10.1163/23526963-04502003.

  • From abstract: “In this essay, I analyze three sixteenth-century Netherlandish paintings of New Testament miraculous healings in the context of the contemporary understanding of miracles and approaches to disability. I argue that, in contrast to the negative perception of the infirm in the early modern literature, the images promote care for the sick as a Christian duty. … …biblical stories become a model for sixteenth-century viewers through the rhetorical use of architectural backdrops… Finally, I show that this connection between miraculous healings and mercy is also established in the iconography of visiting the sick, in which broadly defined medical care is introduced as a manifestation of charity.”

—. “‘We Take Care of Our Own’: Talking about ‘Disability’ in Early Modern Netherlandish Households.” Traciing Private Conversations in Early Modern Europe: Talking in Everyday Life, edited by Johannes Ljungberg and Natacha Klein Käfer. Palgrave Macmillan, 2024, pp. 145–174.

  • Abstract: “This chapter investigates how people in the Netherlands talked about disability, poverty, and charity in the privacy of their homes in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Around the middle of the sixteenth century, we observe a growth in the ownership of works of art depicting disability that were displayed in dining and reception rooms meant to stimulate conversations among family members and guests. The chapter argues that the more positive iconography of disability that we begin to see at the time was influenced by a direct, lived experience of disability. Kaminska’s contribution offers new insight into how art was able to bring the disability witnessed in the streets into one’s home, sparking private conversations about disabled people, bodies, accessibility, and responsibility within the confines of the domestic realm.”

Kelley, Shannon. “Desire, a Crooked Yearning, and the Plants of Endymion.” Renaissance Drama, vol. 44, no. 1, 2016, pp. 1–23,

  • From abstract: “Kelley explores the two prints that located desire in the disabled body began to appear onstage with far different consequences in Renaissance England. The first was the contreblason, satiric verse in praise of a deformed beloved. … The second print form to eroticize disability was published in the essays of Erasmus, Montaigne, and Francis Bacon in the form of a proverb that hypersexualized disabled men, claudus optime virum agit: a cripple best plays the man’s part.”

Kinzelbach, Annemarie. “Leprosaria: The Simultaneity of Segregation and Integration in Early Modern Southern German Towns”. Tracing Hospital Boundaries: Integration and Segregation in Southeastern Europe and Beyond, 1050-1970, edited by Jane L. Stevens Crawshaw, Irena Benyovsky Latin, and Kathleen Vongsathorn, pp. 46–66. Brill, 2020.

Kizelbach, Urszula. “Eroticism—Politics—Identity: The Case of Richard III.” Text Matters: A Journal of Literature, Theory and Culture, no. 3, 3, Nov. 2013, pp. 88–101.

  • Kizelbach analyzes the “Wooing Scene” in Richard III and argues that Richard uses sexuality “to overcome his self-image of a disproportional cripple” (from abstact).

Kluge, Sofie. “Deformed, Unfinished History: Richard III as Mourning Play.” Renaissance Drama, vol. 47, no. 2, 2019, pp. 153–76. DOI: 10.1086/705889.

Kuuliala, Jenni. “The Religious Experience of Ill Health in Late Sixteenth-Century Italy.” Histories of Experience in the World of Lived Religion, edited by Sari Katajala-Peltomaa and Raisa Maria Toivo, Palgrave Macmillan, 2022, pp. 91–114. DOI:10.1007/978-3-030-92140-8_4.

  • Abstract: “This chapter discusses the role of lived religion in interpreting and forming the experience of illness, disability, and pain. The focus is on two cultural scripts that were inherent to early modern Italian culture: miracles and witchcraft. By using canonization process records and records of the Roman Inquisition as the source, the analysis focuses on the ways the veneration of saints and the belief in miraculous healing as well as the idea that witchcraft could make a person ill played into the lived religion of the period.”

Kuzner, James. “King Lear and the Irony of Capacity.” Modern Language Quarterly (2024) 85 (2): 123–149.

  • Abstract: “This essay considers the relation between lyric utterance, dramatic irony, and intellectual disability in King Lear, particularly in Lear’s famous address to Cordelia—which begins with ‘Come, let’s away’—just before Edmund sends both to prison. Reading ‘Come, let’s away’ alongside early modern prison literature, the essay argues that the speech’s work as lyric within tragic drama erodes dramatic irony, removing the audience from the superior knowledge position that such irony affords and that enables ableist perspectives to begin with. In shifting attention from tragic action to lyric power, Lear’s speech renders the ability and willingness to understand one’s situation, and to act efficaciously in that situation, irrelevant to accessing what is beautiful and true. Shakespeare thus separates the question of mental capacity from that of felicitous choice. The irony of capacity in ‘Come, let’s away,’ then, is this: that when readers focus on the value of mental capacity and on the power over action that Lear lacks, they miss what his speech does, the lyric capacity that it has.”

Kvicalova, Anna. “Hearing Difference in Calvin’s Geneva: From Margins to Center.” The Sixteenth Century Journal, vol. 49, no. 1, 2018, pp. 25-47.

  • Focusing on hearing disability, Kvicalova “proposes to approach the Reformation as an epistemological shift that brought about a new moral definition of bodily conduct and sense perception, which constructed hearing differences afresh by determining what it meant to hear or listen properly” (abstract). She suggested a nuanced reality to how disability was conceptualized and experienced in the period.

Leverton, Tara. “‘A Melancholy of Mine Own’: The Cost of Healing and the Bad Patient.” Shakespeare in Southern Africa, vol. 32, no. 1, 2019, pp. 25–13.

  • Leverton first examines the economic aspects and overall dynamics of healer-healee encounters in the gospels and Geoffrey of Monmoth’s Life of Merlin, then argues that Shakespeare’s As You Like It, departs from these earlier stories when “an attempt at healing becomes a battle between a self-appointed but flawed healer and one who is determined to cling to and take pride in his disability” (abstract).

Lo Conte, Angelo. “Vite e Carriere Di Pittori Con Sordità Prelinguale Attivi in Italia Nel Periodo 1590–1720.” Italian Studies, 2023, pp. 1-23, DOI:10.1080/00751634.2023.2258685.

  • From abstract: “This essay investigates the careers of prelingually deaf painters active in Italy in the period 1590–1720. By looking at early modern biographical accounts, archival documents, works of art, and Renaissance poetry, this contribution challenges the stereotype that presents people with deafness as outcasts and emphasises that the consideration of intersectional factors was essential to how early modern people responded to impairment. The present study retraces the evolution of the historical debate on the educability of deaf people and analyses interconnections between deafness and art practice. Through the careers of five artists … the study explores how each of them asserted their own profession, identity, and social position via art practice.”

Lobenwein, Elisabeth. “Disability in the Early Modern Society: Or how to Read “Against the Grain” and “Fill in Gaps”.” Historia Hospitalium, vol. 29, 2014, pp. 197-200.

Loftis, Sonya Freeman. Shakespeare and Disability Studies. Oxford U P, 2021.

  • Abstract: “Examines the interrelations of Shakespeare studies and disability studies, and demonstrates that Shakespeare can be read through disability theory in ways that need not rely on character-based analysis.”

—. “Lycanthropy and Lunacy: Cognitive Disability in The Duchess of Malfi.” In: Godden, R., Mittman, A. (eds) Monstrosity, Disability, and the Posthuman in the Medieval and Early Modern World, 2019. Palgrave Macmillan.

  • From abstract: “As modern understandings of mental disorder meld with early modern conceptions of supernatural (and sexual) threat, readings of Ferdinand that psychologize his lycanthropy present the Duchess’s incestuous brother as simultaneously disabled and monstrous.”

Loftis, Sonya Freeman, and Lisa Ulevich. “Obsession/Rationality/Agency: Autistic Shakespeare.” Disability, Health, and Happiness in the Shakespearean Body, edited by Sujata Iyengar, Routledge, 2014, pp. 58–75,

Love, Genevieve. “Diversifying Early Modern Drama 1: Early Modern Disability Studies and Trans Studies,” The Arden Handbook of Shakespeare and Early Modern Drama: Perspectives on Culture, Performance and Identity, edited by Michelle M. Dowd and Tom Rutter, Bloomsbury, 2022, pp. 275-84.

—. Early Modern Theatre and the Figure of Disability. Bloomsbury, 2018.

  • Love “argues that the figure of the physically disabled prosthetic body in early modern English theatre mediates a set of related ‘likeness problems’ that structure the theatrical, textual, and critical lives of the plays of Shakespeare and his contemporaries” (from abstract).

Mazzola, Elizabeth. “Strange Flesh.” Textual Practice, 2021, pp. 1-24, 10.1080/0950236X.2021.1971752.

  • Mazzola uses disability theory to read Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra and “examine how many of the tropes Shakespeare uses to represent Antony also operate in early modern ballads about freakish creatures, where loathing competes with wonder as ‘strange flesh’ yields to soft selves and ‘inapt’ bodies are made to serve fitter ones.” Mazzola argues that “the incoherence of Antony’s form also evidence of a world which needs to disable some bodies in order to rescue others” (from abstract).

McDonald, Michael. Mystical Bedlam: Madness, Anxiety, and Healing in Seventeenth-Century England. Cambridge U P, 1981.

McGlynn, Margaret. “Idiots, Lunatics and the Royal Prerogative in Early Tudor England.” Journal of Legal History, vol. 26, no. 1, 2005, pp. 1–20, doi: 10.1080/01440360500034420.

  • Abstract: “This article examines the care and custody of the insane under the common law in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century. Lectures given in the Inns of Court and records of actual idiots and lunatics suggest that, despite the king’s prerogative rights over the insane, there seems to have been a general recognition that their families could often provide for them. While the king did not abdicate all his claims to their custody, the administration of those claims demonstrates that a balance could be maintained between the letter of the king’s feudal rights, and familial and social expectations of the treatment of the insane.”

Mckendry, Andrew. “Blind or Blindfolded? Disability, Religious Difference, and Milton’s Samson Agonistes.” Imagining Religious Toleration: A Literary History of an Idea, 1600-1830, edited by Alison Conway and David Alvarez, U of Toronto P, 2019, pp. 58–96,

—. Disavowing Disability: Richard Baxter and the Conditions of Salvation. Cambridge U P, 2021.

Mclelland, Kaye. “Halting Jacob in Early Modern Sermons.” Renaissance Studies, 2021, doi: 10.1111/rest.12767.

  • Mclelland discusses how early modern sermons on Genesis 32 represent Jacob’s briefly-mentioned limp as a permanent condition and a sign of being blessed. The author “uses textual and linguistic analysis to examine the theological desire for a lame or limping Jacob, and the implications of his role within the metaphorical repertoire of the early modern sermon.” (from abstract)

—. “The Lame Man Makes the Best Lecher: Sex, Sin, and the Disabled Renaissance Body.” Framing Premodern Desires. Edited by Satu Lidman, Tom Linkinen, and Marjo Kaartinen. Amsterdam U P 2017.

  • McLelland centers sexuality in a survey of the competing and contradictory ways disabled people were viewed in relation to society and morality. She argues that Richard III and portions of the Faerie Queene “demonstrate the emerging tension between the idealised and the variant body and their relative associations with sexual desire,” and suggests that sexuality in disabled bodies was seen as even more inhuman and worthy of comment than was sexuality in the imagined ideal bodies of classical deities.

—. “Preaching and the Body: Lame Mephibosheth in Early Seventeenth-Century England and Scotland.” The Seventeenth Century, June 2022, pp. 1–16.

  • Abstract: “‘Lame Mephibosheth’ is a minor character in 2 Samuel, but one who features in multiple contexts in sermons and other religious writing of the Jacobean and Caroline periods. This article uses close reading to build on previous scholarship on the use of the Saul-David narrative in the political sphere, demonstrating the use of Mephibosheth’s disabled body in this area as well as in wider theological contexts. Mephibosheth’s lameness is assigned significance regarding sin, whether original or otherwise, and is associated with birth, accident, and disease, depending on the preacher’s intended message. Mephibosheth represents an unusually authentic and consistent disabled biblical figure and is used to express disability as a category, as a synecdoche and through inclusion in lists. The overlooked figure of Mephibosheth illuminates early seventeenth-century attitudes to the body, whereby the physically disabled body is manipulated and posed in the service of the spoken and written word.”

—. “Sexual and Economic Constructions of Women’s Lameness in the Norwich Poor Census.” Early Modern Women, vol. 15, no. 1, 2020, pp. 95-106, doi:10.1353/emw.2020.0007.

  • Abstract: “McLelland explores early modern literary and cultural representations of women described as ‘lame,’ examining their potential sexual deviancy and their economic utility alongside the experiences of historical women of the census whose physical conditions affecting their mobility and movement caused them to similarly be termed ‘lame.’ She suggests that negative attitudes to lame textile-working women in 1570s Norwich, while they could be somewhat mitigated by the women’s perceived industriousness, nevertheless remained pejoratively focused on their bodies as sites of sexual wrongdoing, reflecting contemporary cultural and literary portrayals.”

—. Violent Liminalities in Early Modern Culture: Inhabiting Contested Thresholds. Routledge, 2022, doi:10.4324/9781003107880.

  • From abstract: “Violent liminalities in Early Modern Culture is a methodologically innovative book combining the twin disciplines of queer theory and disability studies. It investigates the violence feared from, and directed at, inhabitants of the ‘betwixt and between’ spaces of early modern literature and culture, through a focus on the perpetuated metamorphic states of Shakespeare’s and Spenser’s liminal figures including Lavinia, Puck, and Britomart.”

McNabb, Cameron Hunt. “Dramatic Prosthesis: Embodying Disability in Lear.” Disability Studies Quarterly, Vol. 42, No. 304, 2022, n.p.

  • Excerpt: “I propose that drama requires its own theoretical concepts for analyzing disability beyond what literary disability studies currently offers. Reading dramatic depictions of disability as literary texts, rather than embodied performances, flattens the semiotic work that they do; however, attending to the embodiment staging disability demands illuminates avenues for shared embodied knowledge within the audience. I read Lear as a particularly apt case study. Disability forms a central theme of Lear and, as Christine M. Gottlieb points out, appears in every plot line. … But in many ways, scholars have under-theorized these depictions of disability in the play” (n.p.).

McRuer, Robert. “Richard III: Fuck the Disabled: The Prequel,” in Shakesqueer: A Queer Companion to the Complete Works of Shakespeare, ed. Madhavi Menon, Duke U P, 2011, pp. 294–301, 300

Medici, Catherine. “The Extremity of Illness: Mary Sidney, Early Modern Women’s Chronic Illness, and Disability Studies.” Early Modern Women, vol. 15, no. 1, 2020, pp. 107-118, doi: 10.1353/emw.2020.0008.

  • Medici discusses how the scars and lifelong poor health Mary Sidney acquired from her bout with smallpox were remembered in stories that shaped “a reputation that emphasized Mary Sidney’s lost beauty rather than the ways she continued to participate politically as a member of the prominent Sidney family.” Medici suggests “that … theories … from contemporary disability studies are useful to understand … Sidney’s lived experience of illness because she was not necessarily disabled in the early modern sense of the word” (abstract).

Mendelson, Avi. “Enabling Rabies in King Lear.” Performing Disability in Early Modern English Drama, edited by Leslie C. Dunn. Springer International, 2021.

  • Charting the similarities between madness in the play and rabies in the early modern world, Mendelson “show[s] how madness in the play is an infection between bodies and often indistinct from reason” and suggests “that we reconsider whether ‘disability’ is an accurate description of madness in Lear” (from abstract).

Mendoza, Ilenia Colón. “The Broken Body as Devotional Mediator in Seventeenth-Century Spain.” The Routledge Companion to Art and Disability, edited by Keri Watson and Timothy W. Hiles, Routledge, 2022.

  • Abstract: “Disability scholarship in seventeenth-century Spain reads bodily perfection as equal to spiritual perfection. Early modern writers such as Ruiz de Alarcśn, who himself was disabled, offer imperfection instead as a prism through which to better see moral lessons. One of the moral lessons he includes in his comedies is the act of giving charity to those who embody imperfection. Alarcśn challenges the concept of lo ideal warning that the ideal is often times a lie and that truth is instead revealed by the non-ideal, the imperfect, and the disabled. Similarly, the imperfect body of the beggar boy in Jusepe Ribera’s Clubfoot Boy (1642), is akin to the broken body of the Supine Christ (c. 1615) by Gregorio Fernández. The boy’s imperfection places him and the viewer closer to God. These broken bodies serve as devotional mediators in Counter-Reformation Spain and offer new insights into the multifaceted constructions of dis/ability.”

Miettinen, Riika. “Curing Madness and Mental Disturbances: Religious Healing Activities in Early Modern Swedish Local Communities.” Health and Society in Early Modern Sweden, edited by Mari Eyice and Charlotta Forss.

Miles, M. (2001) “Martin Luther and Childhood Disability in 16th Century Germany,” Journal of Religion, Disability & Health, 5:4, 5-36, DOI: 10.1300/J095v05n04_02.

  • From abstract: “Luther’s views on disability have been widely misapprehended and caricatured on the basis of a few items in a dubious edition of shorthand notes of conversations. His written and spoken arguments across 30 years …, give a more reliable and interesting guide to his views, in the context of Luther’s personal involvement with sickness, disability and practical care. Historically, European social and religious developments contained a broader range of views on disability than is commonly supposed, with some challenges for 21st century thought and practice.”

—. “Signing in the Seraglio: Mutes, Dwarfs and Jestures at the Ottoman Court 1500-1700.” Disability & Society, vol. 15, no. 1, Jan. 2000, pp. 115–34.

Mintz, Susannah B. “An Collins and the Disabled Self.” An Collins and the Historical Imagination, edited by W. Scott Howard, pp. 67 – 84. Routledge, 2014.

  • Mintz argues that “Collins’s discussion of her various physical discomforts, from frailty to weakness to chronic pain, would represent for readers evidence of the poet’s attempt to discover the condition of her soul, but at the same time, references in her work to a disabled or unhealthy body are not merely … ‘a predictable metaphor’ for spiritual disquiet.” (from abstract)

—. “Dalila’s Touch: Disability and Recognition in Samson Agonistes.” Milton Studies, vol. 40, no. 40, 2001, pp. 150-180.

—. “Freak Space: Aphra Behn’s Strange Bodies.” Restoration: Studies in English Literary Culture, 1660-1700, vol. 30, no. 2, 2006, pp. 1–19.

  • Mintz considers Aphra Behn’s portrayals of disabled and enfreaked women and argues, “Through her unnaturally ‘spaced’ female bodies – bodies too big or too small, blind and mute bodies that interrogate relationships between gender, sexual agency, authorship, and class – Behn suggests that to carve out spheres of influence unrelegated to domesticity or sexual objectification, women must and do exceed the parameters of physical, and thus also ideological, space” (1).

—. “Strange Bodies: Thomas Traherne’s Disabled Subject.” Re-Reading Thomas Traherne: A Collection of New Critical Essays, edited by Jacob Blevins, Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2007, pp. 1-20.

Moola, Fiona J., et al. “Malevolent or Benevolent Brushstrokes?: Exploring the Depiction of Disability in Renaissance Paintings Using a Critical Disability Studies Lens”. Canadian Journal of Disability Studies, vol. 12, no. 2, Sept. 2023, pp. 110-51,

  • From abstract: “Using a critical disability studies (CDS) lens, we explored the historical depiction of disability through Renaissance paintings created between 1300 and 1700. Our formal and semiotic analysis suggests that disability was depicted in ways that reinforce a medicalized notion. Malevolent representations seem to focus on the notion that a disabled body exists in service to an able-bodied other, the healing of disability by a god, or disability as a source of entertainment. In contrast, disability and tenderness may be seen as a more benevolent portrayal but not without paternalism and infantilization. Although paintings of children were few, disabled children were depicted in a more compassionate and vulnerable light than disabled adults, perhaps highlighting differing degrees of acceptance on the basis of age. Our use CDS in this paper highlights the problematic persistence of biomedicalization and pathologizing in Renaissance art. We encourage further use of CDS perspectives in art history analysis in the future, given the potential to generate emancipatory artistic movements and new conversations about bodies in space and time.”

Moss, Stephanie, and Kaara L. Peterson. Disease, Diagnosis, and Cure on the Early Modern Stage. Ashgate, 2004, doi: 10.4324/9781315257662.

Nardizzi, Vin. “Budding Oedipus: The Oedipal Family Tree and King Lear.” Criticism, vol. 62, no. 3, 2020, pp. 347-366, doi: 10.13110/criticism.62.3.0347.

—. “Disability Figures in Shakespeare.” The Oxford Handbook of Shakespeare and Embodiment: Gender, Sexuality, and Race, edited by Valerie Traub, Oxford U P, 2016, pp. 455–67.

Neely, Carol Thomas. Distracted Subjects: Madness and Gender in Shakespeare and Early Modern Culture. Cornell U P, 2004.

Neil, Kelly. “The Fair Maid of the Exchange: Scrutinizing Disability in the Early Modern Literature Classroom.” This Rough Magic, 2013.

Nelson, Jennifer L. “Sign Gain to Deaf Gain: Deafness in Early Modern Manual Rhetoric and Modern Shakespeare Performances.” Performing Disability in Early Modern English Drama, edited by Leslie C. Dunn. Springer International, 2021.

Nelson, Jennifer L., and Bradley S. Berens. “Spoken Daggers, Deaf Ears, and Silent Mouths: Fantasies of Deafness in Early Modern England.” The Disability Studies Reader, edited by Lennard J. Davis. Routledge, 1997.

Nelson, Mary K. “Shakespeare’s Henry VIII: Stigmatizing the ‘Disabled’ Womb.” Disability Studies Quarterly, vol. 29, no. 4, 2009, doi: 10.18061/dsq.v29i4.995.

  • From abstract: “In keeping with many disability theorists’ belief that disability is largely socially constructed, Shakespeare’s Henry VIII constructs Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn as possessors of “disabled wombs.” …their failure to birth sons leads to their depiction as disabled. The subsequent treatment that Katherine and Anne endure mirrors the experiences that disabled people have historically faced: they are blamed for their conditions, which are viewed as indicators of sinful activity, stigmatized, and sequestered, both from their own daughters and the world. The play concludes with the christening of Elizabeth, who resisted the pressure to conform to the biological paradigm of maternity and established herself as a metaphoric mother to her people. In so doing, Elizabeth escaped her own mother’s fate: designation as a disabled queen mother.”

Newman, Sara. “Portrait of Sixteenth-Century Disability? Quentin Matsys’s A Grotesque Old Woman.” Review of Disability Studies: An International Journal, vol. 10, no. 3 & 4, 2014.

Nichols, Tom. “The Vagabond Image: Depictions of False Beggars in Northern Art of the Sixteenth Century.” In Others and Outcasts in Early Modern Europe: Picturing the Social Margins, edited by Tom Nichols, pp. 37–60. Ashgate, 2007.

O’Bryan, Robin. “Able-bodied and Disabled Dwarfs in Italian Renaissance Art and Culture 1.” The Routledge Companion to Art and Disability, edited by Keri Watson and Timothy W. Hiles, Routledge, 2022.

  • From abstract: “Focusing on dwarfs in Renaissance Italy this essay proposes an “art historical” model that challenges the disability stereotype while correcting the misconceptions that plague disability scholarship about dwarfs’ lived experience. A review of textual sources in conjunction with an analysis of the dwarf’s representation in period imagery permits us to take a different perspective. Thus, while acknowledging that dwarfs were a common feature of the princely courts and aristocratic households, the investigation reveals that they did not always assume the role of jester, but rather functioned in art and life as a symbol of status and as an expression (as the case may be) of princely ruling authority. … This is exactly commensurate with how dwarfs were represented in works of art: while artists became adept at portraying various types of dwarfism, they typically rendered dwarfs as able-bodied. In fact, in the vast corpus of dwarf imagery only rarely were they shown with the extreme deformations that would allow us to categorize them as “disabled”. Taken together the visual and written evidence suggests that the disability stereotype is a modern construct that does not reflect the reality of how dwarfs were generally perceived and then portrayed in Italian Renaissance art.”

Oates, Rosamund. “Speaking in Hands: Early Modern Preaching and Signed Languages for the Deaf.” Past & Present, 2021, doi: 10.1093/pastj/gtab019.

Olson, Greta. “Richard III’s Animalistic Criminal Body.” Philological Quarterly, vol. 82, no. 3, 2003.

  • Abstract: “Contemporary criminal reporting often likens perpetrators to animals when their crimes are considered particularly reprehensible. Here, Olson traces the association of the criminal with the animal into the past by examining the characterization of Shakespeare’s Richard York, Duke of Gloucester, who later became Richard III.”

Park, Katherine, and Lorraine Daston. “Unnatural Conceptions: The Study of Monsters in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century France and England.” Past and Present, 92 (1981): 20–55, doi: 10.1093/past/92.1.20.

Pelling, Margaret. “Healing the Sick Poor: Social Policy and Disability in Norwich 1550–1640.” Medical History, vol. 29, no. 2, 1985, pp. 115–37,

  • Pelling examines poor relief in Norwich and concludes, “The case of Norwich shows that in practice the poor were not divided simply into ‘the impudent and the impotent’. Categories other than the traditionally impotent could be included in those eligible for relief, and such relief involved a flexible attitude to institutionalization. City authorities could indeed seek to remodel the poor themselves … in a highly literal and physical sense” (137).

Pells, Ismini. “Soliciting Sympathy: The Search for Psychological Trauma in Petitions from Seventeenth-Century Maimed Soldiers.” Early Modern Trauma, edited by Erin Peters and Cynthia Richards, U of Nebraska P, 2021, pp. 129–50.

Peters, Erin. “‘The Deep Staines these Wars Will Leave Behind’: Psychological Wounds and Curative Methods in the English Civil Wars.” Battle-Scarred: Mortality, medical care and military welfare in the British Civil Wars, edited by David Appleby and Andrew Hopper. Manchester U P, 2018. DOI:10.7228/manchester/9781526124807.003.0009.

—. “Trauma Narratives of the English Civil War.” Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies, vol. 16, no. 1, 2016, pp. 78-94.

Philippian, Mardy. “The Book of Common Prayer, Theory of Mind, and Autism in Early Modern England.” Recovering Disability in Early Modern England, edited by Allison P. Hobgood and David Houston Wood, Ohio State U P, 2013, pp. 150–66.

Rinaldi, Massimo. “Becoming a Good Wife: Nature and Habits in Paduan Medical Culture in the Age of Shakespeare.” Cahiers Élisabéthains, vol. 112, no. 1, Nov. 2023, pp. 104–18.

  • “This article attempts to shed light on how Paduan University and the academic culture of Shakespeare’s age tackled the age-old problems of the relationship between conduct and character, mores and temperamenta, within the tradition of Galenic humouralism, and of the possibility of correcting woman’s aberrant behaviour by acting on the complexion. It is an investigation that might shed light on Shakespeare’s protagonist.” (p. 105)

Roden, Katey E. “A Disabling Gaze: Recovering Early Modern Disability Perspectives with Thomas Traherne’s Poems of Felicity.” This Rough Magic, June 2017, n.p.

Row-Heyveld, Lindsey. “Antic Dispositions: Mental and Intellectual Disabilities in Early Modern Revenge Tragedy.” Recovering Disability in Early Modern England, edited by Allison P. Hobgood and David Houston Wood, Ohio State U P, 2013, pp. 73–87.

—. “Disability and the Work of Performance in Early Modern England.” Performing Disability in Early Modern English Drama, edited by Leslie C. Dunn. Springer International, 2021.

  • From abstract: “This chapter traces out the circular relationship between disability’s performance and disability’s work. It also explores the complications that this relationship created for the burgeoning professional theater in England. Using Thomas Dekker’s Shoemaker’s Holiday as an example, I explore how the theater’s representation of disability reveals both the work of performance assigned to people with disabilities and the way in which the theater negotiated and regulated that performance as they attempted to legitimate their own performative work.”

—. Dissembling Disability in Early Modern English Drama. Springer International, 2018, doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-92135-8.

—. “‘Known and Feeling Sorrows’: Disabled Knowledge and King Lear.” Early Theatre, vol. 22, no. 2, 2019, p. 157.

  • Abstract: “This essay argues that King Lear presents a version of disability determined not by bodily authenticity but by bodily knowledge. By staging multiple forms and experiences of disability, the play defies the drive to authenticate and control non-standard bodies that flourished in early modern England. King Lear’s insistence on embodied knowledge both recognizes the unique perspective afforded to disability and resists disability exceptionalism through its attention to populations made vulnerable to impairment. King Lear specifically dramatizes the way disabled knowledge extended to precarious populations by granting Edgar disabled knowledge even though his disability is fraudulent.”

—. “The Lying’st Knave in Christendom: The Development of Disability in the False Miracle of Saint Albans.” Disability Studies Quarterly 29, no. 4 (2009).

  • From abstract: “This article examines various retellings of a single story to explore how conceptions of disability changed throughout the English Reformation. …. More’s version imagines a disability that is shaped by an understanding of mutual exchange between disabled and able-bodied persons. The Reformation eliminated that exchange, and its loss is reflected in the other accounts … where disability is imagined as increasingly dangerous, deceptive, and emasculating. I argue that Shakespeare, in particular, expands negative post-Reformation ideas about disability in 2 Henry VI, while simultaneously demonstrating the inability to contain disability in a period that anxiously struggled to define and regulate it.”

Runesson, Anton. “Illness as Incapacity to Work in Early Modern Sweden.” Health and Society in Early Modern Sweden, edited by Mari Eyice and Charlotta Forss.

Rushdon, Peter. “Lunatics and Idiots: Mental Disability, the Community, and the Poor Law in North-East England 1600-1800.” Medical History 32 (1988): 34–50.

Sanborn, Colin. “Destierro and Desengaño: The Disabled Body in Golden Age Spanish Portraiture.” Disability and Art History from Antiquity to the Twenty-First Century, edited By Ann Millett-Gallant, Elizabeth Howie, Routledge, 2022.

Sawday, Jonathan. The Body Emblazoned: Dissection and the Human Body in Renaissance Culture. Routledge, 1995, doi: 10.4324/9781315887753.

Schattner, Angela. “Disablement as Disability? Public Welfare and the Disabled Poor in Early Modern Germany.” Historia Hospitalium, vol. 29, 2014, pp. 178-186.

—. “Disabled to Work? Impairment, the in/Ability to Work and Perceptions of Dis/Ability in Late Medieval and Early Modern Germany.” Disability Studies Quarterly, vol. 37, no. 4, Nov. 2017.,

Seymour, Laura. “Shakespearean Echolalia: Autism and Versification in King John.” Shakespeare, vol. 0, no. 0, July 2022, pp. 1–17.

  • Abstract: “In King John 3.1, Bastard speaks with a repetition I claim as autistic, specifically echolalia. Echolalia is an autistic speech pattern involving repetition of words and phrases; it is not unique to autism. Attention to versification in 3.1 reveals the ways in which echolalia challenges ableist norms of meaning and suggests fruitful cripped ways of understanding temporality and intentionality in Shakespearean verse speaking. This article analyses Shakespeare’s versification to unlock 3.1’s autistic potential, thereby opening space for future neurodiverse readers and performers to engage with Shakespearean echolalia.”

Shapiro, Lisa. “The Health of the Body-Machine? Or Seventeenth Century Mechanism and the Concept of Health.” Perspectives on Science, vol. 11, no. 4, 2003, pp. 421–42.

  • From abstract: “By drawing on the history of medicine, I suggest that in the seventeenth century there was space for a non-teleological account of health. I further argue that mechanists can and did appeal to structural integrity, as a non-teleological notion of form, to ground the norms required for ascriptions of health.”

Shaw, Justin. “‘Rub Him About the Temples’: Othello, Disability, and the Failures of Care.” Early Theatre, vol. 22, no. 2, 2019, doi: 10.12745/et.22.2.3997.

  • Abstract: “Focusing on how race and disability deconstruct and expose the facades of friendship, this article explores the ethical differences in models of care in Shakespeare’s Othello. It examines the networks of care surrounding the character of Othello – particularly his interactions with Cassio – and demonstrates how, by revealing the many pretensions and failures of relationship, the play develops a theory and praxis for ethical caring that attends to the complexity of a black and disabled character. The play, this essay argues, finally presents a solution to the problem of care in the symbolic and material web of the ancestral handkerchief.”

Siebers, Tobin. “Shakespeare Differently Disabled.” The Oxford Handbook of Shakespeare and Embodiment: Gender, Sexuality, and Race, edited by Valerie Traud. Oxford U P, pp. 435–54.

Simpson-Younger, Nancy. “Syphilis Patches: Form and Dramatic History in the Knight of the Burning Pestle.” Performing Disability in Early Modern English Drama, edited by Leslie C. Dunn. Springer International, 2021.

Sisson, C. J. “Tudor Intelligence Tests: Malvolio and Real Life.” Essays on Shakespeare and Elizabethan Drama: In Honour of Hardin Craig, edited by Richard Hosley, Routledge, 2017, pp. 183–200.

Skuse, Alanna. “Biting one’s Tongue: Autoglossotomy and Agency in The Spanish Tragedy.” Renaissance Studies, vol. 36, no. 2, 2022, pp. 278-294, doi: 10.1111/rest.12747.

  • Skuse “argues that Hieronimo’s tongue-biting taps into rich discourses about self-injury, personal agency, stoicism and madness” and “should be read as bringing together a number of cultural scripts, which interact and overlap to produce a morally ambiguous and richly allusive scene.” Skuse also discusses how the revisions to the play “shifted the meaning of this scene” (from abstract).

—. “Missing Parts in The Shoemaker’s Holiday.” Renaissance Drama, vol. 45, no. 2, 2017, doi: 10.1086/694329.

—. “‘One Stroak of His Razour’: Tales of Self-Gelding in Early Modern England.” Social History of Medicine: The Journal of the Society for the Social History of Medicine, vol. 33, no. 2, 2020, pp. 377-393.

  • Skuse examines early modern stories of self-castration and their religious and legal contexts. Skuse finds that “such actions typically occurred as a response to emotional distress. In particular, men gelded themselves as a means to express feelings of emasculation within heterosexual relationships, and to dramatically renounce their role in the libidinal economy.” (from abstract)

—. Surgery and Selfhood in Early Modern England: Altered Bodies and Contexts of Identity. Cambridge U P, 2021, doi:10.1017/9781108919395.

  • From abstract: “Offering an innovative perspective on debates concerning embodiment in the early modern period, Alanna Skuse examines diverse kinds of surgical alteration… Body-altering surgeries had profound socio-economic and philosophical consequences. They reached beyond the physical self, and prompted early modern authors to develop searching questions about the nature of body integrity and its relationship to the soul… Drawing on a wide variety of texts…, this volume will argue that the answers to these questions were flexible, divergent, and often surprising, and helped to shape early modern thoughts on philosophy, literature, and the natural sciences.”

Spadaro, Katrina L. “Disease, Folly, Authorship: Robert Armin and Twelfth Night.” Shakespeare, vol. 17, no. 3, 2021, pp. 1–20,

Stagg, Kevin. “Representing Physical Difference: The Materiality of the Monstrous.” Social Histories of Disability and Deformity, edited by David Turner and Kevin Stagg. Routledge, 2006.

Stainton, Tim. “Reason’s Other: The Emergence of the Disabled Subject in the Northern Renaissance.” Disability and Society, vol. 19, no. 3, 2004, pp. 225–43,

Steggle, Matthew. “A Lost Jacobean Tragedy: ‘Henry the Una’ (c 1619).” Early Theatre, vol. 13, no. 1, 2010, pp. 65–81.

  • Steggle discusses evidence of a lost play apparently called Henry the Una. He suggests that it was actually titled Henry the Unable and about the fifteenth-century King Henry IV of Castile, who is called “Henry the Unable” in a handful of seventeenth-century texts because of his purported impotence. Steggle explains that Henry IV of Castile was evidently an intriguing historical figure to the early modern English, who portrayed him in such diverse ways as a weak ruler, an unfortunate cuckold, and a benevolent man. Steggle also comments on the play’s possible date and theatrical history.

Strocchia, Sharon T. “Disability Histories from the Convent.” Early Modern Women, vol. 15, no. 1, 2020, pp. 74-83, doi: 10.1353/emw.2020.0005.

Swarbrick, Steven. “Dancing with Perdita: The Choreography of Lost Time in The Winter’s Tale.The Oxford Handbook of Shakespeare and Dance. Edited by Lynsey McCulloch, and Brandon Shaw. Oxford U P, 2019.

  • Swarbrick “argues that dance provides a key interpretive framework for understanding the play’s interest in bodily movements that exceed static oppositions between absence and presence, time lost and time regained. Drawing on recent theorizations of ‘crip time’ and the posthuman, the author reads Perdita’s dance as a figuration of bodies, sexualities, and histories without proper figure; in so doing, this chapter sets out to choreograph lost time via the space between movements—where generativity and negativity dance” (from abstract).

—. “Object-Oriented Disability: The Prosthetic Image in Paradise Lost.” Journal of Narrative Theory, vol. 49, no. 3, 2019, pp. 323–50.

Toscano, Pasquale S. “Pity, Singular Disability, and the Makings of Shakespearean Tragedy in Julius Caesar.” SEL Studies in English Literature 1500-1900, vol. 61, no. 2, 2022, pp. 203–40.

Turner, David M. “Disability Humor and the Meanings of Impairment in Early Modern England.” Recovering Disability in Early Modern England, edited by Allison P. Hobgood and David Houston Wood, Ohio State U P, 2013, pp. 57–72.

Van Den Berg, Sara. “Dwarf Aesthetics in Spenser’s Faerie Queene and the Early Modern Court.” Recovering Disability in Early Modern England, edited by Allison P. Hobgood and David Houston Wood, Ohio State U P, 2013, pp. 23–42.

Vozar, Thomas M. “Body-Mind Aporia in the Seizure of Othello.” Philosophy and Literature, vol. 36, no. 1, 2012, pp. 183–86.

  • Noting that Othello’s seizure does not appear in Shakespeare’s source materials and was the playwright’s own invention, Vozar “argue[s] … for a philosophical interpretation of Othello’s epilepsy: namely, that his seizure, particularly in relation to the play’s conflict of reason and emotion, can be seen as a challenge to early modern orthodoxy concerning the mind-body problem, in that it conflates the distinction between body and soul” (from abstract).

Warner, Mikaela. Henry VIII and Disability Studies. 2024. U of Georgia, PhD dissertation.

Williams, Katherine Schaap. “Demonstrable Disability.” Early Theatre: A Journal Associated with the Records of Early English Drama, vol. 22, no. 2, 2019, pp. 185–97.

  • Abstract: “This essay is about how disability rhetoric functions in early modern plays beyond the visible difference of disabled characters. In a medium that makes meaning out of bodies, disability rhetoric registers how much the language of disqualification can only succeed without the human form of the actor. Disability epithets define other bodies on the stage as whole and unmarked by negation, or, by contrast, have the effect of unsettling the scrutiny of the bodies that are onstage. Attention to disability rhetoric thus offers an instructive study because it succinctly outlines the concepts that ossify into, and serve to naturalize, negative images of early modern disability.”

—. “Enabling Richard: The Rhetoric of Disability in Richard III.Disability Studies Quarterly, vol. 29, no. 4, 2009,

—. “‘More Legs than Nature Gave Thee’: Performing the Cripple in The Fair Maid of the Exchange.ELH, vol. 82, no. 2, 2015, pp. 491–519.

—. “Performing Disability and Theorizing Deformity.” English Studies, vol. 94, no. 7, 2013, pp. 757-772, doi: 10.1080/0013838X.2013.840125.

—. Unfixable Forms: Disability, Performance, and the Early Modern English Theater. Cornell U P, 2021.

Wilson, Jeffrey R. “The Figure of Stigma in Shakespeare’s Drama.” Genre, vol. 51, no. 3, 2018, pp. 237-266, doi:10.1215/00166928-7190506.

—. “‘Savage and Deformed’: Stigma as Drama in The Tempest.” Medieval & Renaissance Drama in England, vol. 31, 2018, pp. 146–77.

  • Arguing that “the significance of Caliban’s body rests in the gap between what it is and what it is said to be” (147), Wilson suggests, in part, that the idea of Caliban as a slave has influenced how his deformity is imagined.

—. “The Trouble with Disability in Shakespeare Studies.” Disability Studies Quarterly, vol. 37, no. 2, 2017.

Wind, Barry. A Foul and Pestilent Congregation: Images of Freaks in Baroque Art. Routledge, 1998.

Wood, David Houston. “‘Fluster’d with Flowing Cups’: Alcoholism, Humoralism, and the Prosthetic Narrative in Othello.” Disability Studies Quarterly, vol. 29, no. 4, 2009,

—. “Shakespeare and Variant Embodiment.” Shakespeare in our Time: A Shakespeare Association of America Collection, edited by Dympna Callaghan and Suzanne Gossett. Bloomsbury Arden Shakespeare, 2016.

—. “New Directions: ‘some Tardy Cripple’: Timing Disability in Richard III.Richard III: A Critical Reader. Bloomsbury, 2013.

—. “Staging Disability in Renaissance Drama.” A New Companion to Renaissance Drama, edited by Arthur F. Kinney and Thomas Warren Hopper, Wiley, 2017, pp. 487–500.

Yargo, John. “Milton’s Postures: Prostrating, Grinding, Leaning.” Studies in Philology, vol. 119, no. 3, 2022, pp. 526-554.

  • Abstract: “Throughout John Milton’s dramatic poem Samson Agonistes, the postures of the body allow individual characters to overcome the faltering capacities of speech, mind, and spirit. Early in the play, prostrating affords Samson the opportunity to make sense of his fractured and traumatized mental condition. Through the posture of grinding, the play conceives of a “sensate community,” by which Dalila and Samson can achieve a shared, if fleeting, understanding of each other. Samson’s leaning against the pillars, as summarized by a passerby, is a sophisticated model of spiritual identity that rejects the ableist assumption of any individual’s physical or visual autonomy. In conclusion, this essay turns to the aesthetic and moral implications for Milton of “tugging” the pillars down in the play’s final sequence of violence.”