© 2001

Fictions of Disease in Early Modern England

Bodies, Plagues and Politics


Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xii
  2. Margaret Healy
    Pages 1-17
  3. Margaret Healy
    Pages 18-49
  4. Margaret Healy
    Pages 50-87
  5. Margaret Healy
    Pages 88-122
  6. Margaret Healy
    Pages 123-151
  7. Margaret Healy
    Pages 152-187
  8. Margaret Healy
    Pages 188-228
  9. Margaret Healy
    Pages 229-237
  10. Back Matter
    Pages 238-277

About this book


How did early modern people imagine their bodies? What impact did the new disease syphilis and recurrent outbreaks of plague have on these mental landscapes? Why was the glutted belly such a potent symbol of pathology? Ranging from the Reformation through the English Civil War, Fictions of Disease in Early Modern England is a unique study of a fascinating cultural imaginary of 'disease' and its political consequences. Healy's original approach illuminates the period's disease-impregnated literature, including works by Shakespeare, Milton, Dekker, Heywood and others.


English literature fiction humour John Milton politics reformation William Shakespeare

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.University of SussexUK

About the authors

MARGARET HEALY is a Lecturer in English at the University of Sussex. She has published a study of Shakespeare's Richard II, and many articles on early modern literature, medicine and art.

Bibliographic information


'Fictions of Disease is a wonderful book. Healy does a brilliant job of sketching the range of attitudes to disease and health available in early modern England. Blending scholarly rigor with humane sympathy, Healy focuses not just on what was known but on what kinds of corporeal experience that knowledge made available.' - Professor Michael Schoenfeldt, University of Michigan

'Fictions of Disease in Early Modern England contributes greatly to our understanding of the interplay of the medical and the literary. Through imaginative yet meticulous exploration of the potency of particular medical metaphors, Dr Healy anatomizes dominant models of the body and the body politic and demonstrates their symbolic resonances.' - Roy Porter, Professor of the Social History of Medicine, Welcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at University College, London

'Healy's book is an excellent and rich commentary on the multiple narratives of medicine in this era.' - Anita Guerrini, Isis

'Fictions of disease contributes to our understanding of the complex interrelation between medical and literary discourses, elucidating why metaphors of the body were so central to early modern political thought. Healy imaginatively maps the moral, religious and political implications of the language of somatic experience in the early modern period.' - Lesel Dawson, University of Leeds, Medical History