Twins in Early Modern English Drama and Shakespeare: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Twins in Early Modern English Drama and Shakespeare

1st Edition

By Daisy Murray


202 pages

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Hardback: 9781138679368
pub: 2017-01-25
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This volume investigates the early modern understanding of twinship through new readings of plays, informed by discussions of twins appearing in such literature as anatomy tracts, midwifery manuals, monstrous birth broadsides, and chapbooks. The book contextualizes such dramatic representations of twinship, investigating contemporary discussions about twins in medical and popular literature and how such dialogues resonate with the twin characters appearing on the early modern stage. Garofalo demonstrates that, in this period, twin births were viewed as biologically aberrant and, because of this classification, authors frequently attempt to explain the phenomenon in ways which call into question the moral and constitutional standing of both the parents and the twins themselves. In line with current critical studies on pregnancy and the female body, discussions of twin births reveal a distrust of the mother and the processes surrounding twin conception; however, a corresponding suspicion of twins also emerges, which monstrous birth pamphlets exemplify. This book analyzes the representation of twins in early modern drama in light of this information, moving from tragedies through to comedies. This progression demonstrates how the dramatic potential inherent in the early modern understanding of twinship is capitalized on by playwrights, as negative ideas about twins can be seen transitioning into tragic and tragicomic depictions of twinship. However, by building toward a positive, comic representation of twins, the work additionally suggests an alternate interpretation of twinship in this period, which appreciates and celebrates twins because of their difference. The volume will be of interest to those studying Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature in relation to the History of Emotions, the Body, and the Medical Humanities.


"As a new work on an often-discussed but rarely properly studied facet of early modern drama, Murray’s text is valuable, but where it shines is in its considera-tion of non-dramatic representation and culture. This book is undeniably within the realm of theatre and theatre history, but it is also a work of social and cultural history around ideas of conception, childbirth, science, and gender. As a resource for scholars thinking about drama, genre, families, twins, science, non-dramatic literary culture, or any one of a number of other specific subtopics, this text is a fresh, insightful volume that will surely open up new avenues of inquiry for its readers."

- Jess Hamlet, University of Alabama, Early Theatre

Table of Contents


List of Figures



Chapter One: Tragedies: The Duchess of Malfi and The Cruel Brother

Chapter Two: Tragicomedies: The Devil’s Law Case, The Twins and The Lovesick Court

Chapter Three: Comedies: Changes: or, Love in a Maze, Patient Grissil, A Chaste Maid in Cheapside, Ignoramus and Senile Odium

Chapter Four: Shakespearean Comedy: The Comedy of Errors and Twelfth Night



About the Author

Daisy Murray is Higher Education Programme Developer for the Royal Shakespeare Company.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Renaissance Literature and Culture

From Shakespeare to Jonson, Routledge Studies in Renaissance Literature and Culture looks at both the literature and culture of the early modern period. This series is our home for cutting-edge, upper-level scholarly studies and edited collections. Considering literature alongside theatre, popular culture, race, gender, ecology, space, and other subjects, titles are characterized by dynamic interventions into established subjects and innovative studies on emerging topics.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LITERARY CRITICISM / European / English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh