Plagued by Kindness: Contagious Sympathy in Shakespearean Drama

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article considers Shakespeare's metaphors of transmission, contagion, and infection in the light of period plague tracts, medical treatises and plague time literature. It demonstrates how period conceptions of disease are predicated upon a notion of sympathetic transference and, consequently, how kindness, likeness and communication between characters in Shakespearean drama are complicated and fraught with period specific anxiety. This article situates Shakespearean literary texts within a precise historical and medical moment, considering how scientific conceptions contaminate dramatic text.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-109
Number of pages6
JournalMedical Humanities
Early online date2 Sept 2011
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Shakespeare
  • Plague
  • Contagion
  • Othello
  • Transmission
  • Friendship
  • Paracelsus

Cite this