Embedded in Shakespeare’s “Fair Verona”

  • Rebecca TotaroEmail author
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Literature, Science and Medicine book series (PLSM)


Drawing from the medical humanities to examine Verona as an “epidemic assemblage,” Totaro offers an unsettling reading of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. A phrase blending Joost van Loon’s concept of “epidemic space” and Jane Bennett’s thinking about human–nonhuman assemblages as sites of distributive agency, the epidemic assemblage denies a patient zero. As an assemblage of people, weather, politics, economy, infrastructure, etc., Verona thus denies assignation of causal agency or blame. Furthermore, while the always-changing mixtures of non-human and human things in this space give rise to the literal plague, to contagious anger, and to seemingly effective curses, they also produce young love, maternal love, friendship, and exuberant pleasure. Embedded within the epidemic assemblage of Verona, Totaro advocates the rethinking of all spaces of contagion, literary and literal; spaces issuing death. They produce equally salubrious forms of change, including laughter.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Florida Gulf Coast UniversityFort MyersUSA

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