Introduction: Dissembling Disability in Early Modern English Drama

  • Lindsey Row-Heyveld
Part of the Literary Disability Studies book series (LIDIST)


In 40 sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century plays, able-bodied characters counterfeit disability. In this introduction, Row-Heyveld contends that these plays constitute a distinct theatrical tradition. In spite of its popularity, the counterfeit-disability tradition has remained unnoted by scholars. This chapter accounts for that oversight and argues for the need to recognize this tradition as an important part of disability history and early modern drama. In identifying this tradition, Row-Heyveld seeks to recover some of the contexts of early modern disability, in particular the ways in which disability was (re)formed through the period’s discourses and practices of charity. Changing approaches to almsgiving led to increasing concerns about counterfeit disability, powering a feedback loop of performance and suspicion. These contexts provided fertile material for the theater, and the chapter surveys the multifaceted appeal of counterfeit disability for the early modern stage.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lindsey Row-Heyveld
    • 1
  1. 1.Luther CollegeDecorahUSA

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