“A Deal of Stinking Breath”: The Smell of Contagion in the Early Modern Playhouse

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


In Julius Caesar , Casca suggests the plebeians can contaminate the tribunes simply by emitting offensive scents in public. While the citizens’ odor is used to vilify them, it becomes a potent signifier of the agency they possess to voice their views, and ultimately, to infect the body politic. This chapter shows how the crowd’s repulsive smells are mirrored in the material conditions of the playhouse’s smoky atmosphere. All the smells in the playhouse—dung, sweat, perfume, smoke, and animal blood—contribute to an interpretation of the play’s classist understanding of olfactory contagion.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of CaliforniaRiversideUSA

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