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date: 23 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

‘Thinking with Poison’ explores the fascination of Shakespeare and his contemporaries with poison and poisoning, as a secretive and therefore especially heinous form of murder, often used by the socially weak and marginal against their natural superiors, although sometimes also employed by powerful courtiers, as in the scandalous murder of Sir Thomas Overbury. The chapter argues that talk about poison crystalized profound contemporary anxieties about order and identity, purity and pollution, class and gender, self and other, the domestic and the foreign, politics and religion, tyanny and court conspiracy, appearance and reality, the natural and the supernatural, the knowable and the occult. The chapter focuses in particular on the role of poison in anti-Catholic polemic, in depictions of court corruption, in contemporary medical and scientific debates, and in discussion of witchcraft and the occult.

Keywords: poison, order and disorder, popery, witchcraft, courtiers tyranny, Machiavellianism, Thomas Overbury

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