Bad Dancing and Contagious Embarrassment in More Dissemblers Besides Women

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


This essay explores the contagion of embarrassment on the early modern stage, focussing on a scene of embarrassingly bad dancing in Thomas Middleton’s More Dissemblers Besides Women. While the term “embarrassment” did not exist in its modern sense at the time, investigating representations of this less morally inflected form of shame reveals that shame scenarios do not have to involve an affective division between the “shamer” and the “shamed.” Rather, witnessing embarrassment embarrasses the onlooker, creating empathy and affiliation. Panek argues that More Dissemblers deploys contagious embarrassment to create an empathic bond between actor and audience, complicating the audience’s affective response to what would otherwise be a conventional shaming scene in which a character in male disguise is exposed as an unwed, pregnant young woman.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of OttawaOttawaCanada

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