“A Plague o’ Both Your Houses”: Causation and Contagion in Romeo and Juliet lecture by Mary Floyd-Wilson
Presented by the Carolina Public Humanities and the Foundation of Wayne Community College
Although pestilence, as an epidemic, may only haunt the borders of Romeo and Juliet, plague discourse and its conspiracy of causes shapes the play’s tragic story. In this lecture, Dr. Mary Floyd-Wilson argues that Renaissance habits of thought regarding plague transmission profoundly influenced Shakespeare’s representation of how the lovers and their community interpret their experience of time, knowledge, and death, and how contagion—whether of love, hate, or disease—collapses differences.
Dr. Mary Floyd-Wilson is the Bowman and Gordan Gray Distinguished Term Professor of English and Comparative Literature at UNC-Chapel Hill. She works in the field of early modern English literature, primarily drama placed in cultural, social, and intellectual contexts. Past projects have included readings of Shakespeare’s Othello, Cymbeline, Macbeth, Ben Jonson’s Masque of Blackness, and Christopher
Marlowe’s Tamburlaine in relation to the period’s understanding of ethnological differences–a discourse she identifies as “geohumoralism.” Her subsequent research has focused on the sympathies and antipathies (as central to a history of emotion), occult knowledge, and the construction of science in the period. She is currently writing a book titled The Tempter or the Tempted: Demonic Causality on the Shakespearean Stage about the distinct influence of the Protestant devil in early modern culture.