Finding the Frame: Inference in Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet

  • Nicholas R. Helms
Part of the Cognitive Studies in Literature and Performance book series (CSLP)


Karsten Stueber has argued that inferences can frame acts of imagination, the two methods working in concert to enable mindreading. For Shakespeare’s plays focused on decay—Antony and Cleopatra, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet—the early modern theory of spontaneous generation is an important frame for imaginative mindreading. Romeo and Juliet, for instance, each make pivotal decisions based upon their understanding of how decay functions, as a process immanent and imminent at the point of death. Helms brings together recent work in animal studies and in cognitive ecology to consider the affects that animal (and insect) life have upon human cognition. Understanding the choices Shakespeare’s characters make can require setting aside one’s own contemporary theories of decay and inferentially adopting theirs, thinking through the lives of carrion flies alongside the lives of these young lovers.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicholas R. Helms
    • 1
  1. 1.University of AlabamaTuscaloosaUSA

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