My dissertation (working title: "Revenge should have no bounds": Poisonous Performances in Early Modern England) explores the central place of poison in the gory, revenge-filled dramas of early modern England. I investigate the doubled identity of revengers and villains, both of whom use poisons of an astounding variety to kill their victims. More than a simple tool for murderers, poison dramatizes the infectious spread of court corruption, as poison was the underlying, occult force of those "new" epidemic diseases, the pox and the pestilence. I argue that revenge is another disease of poison in its destruction of categories and bounds; it is no coincidence that Laertes and Claudius turn to poison at the same moment Claudius agrees that no place should "sanctuarize" murder, as "Revenge should have no bounds" (IV.vii.126-7). As such a boundary-breaking agent, poison offers transformation, whether disease or cure, and revengers turn to poison and to the theater in tandem to transform their diseased world. I contend that this intersection between the theater and contagious poisons puts into question an anxiety debated by countless religious, medical, legal, and dramatic writers of the time. That is, can poison cure poison? By staging, often uneasily, the possible overlaps between poison and cure, dramatists more radically explore the perverse appeal and power of their own art.
I am a Ph.D. candidate in English at Harvard University. I graduated summa cum laude from Bates College (2006), receiving my B.A. in Biological Psychology, and have co-authored articles on adenosine-2 receptors and Parkinson's Disease, and serotonergic prefrontal stimulation and anxiety. I earned my A.M. in English from Harvard in 2010. From 2011 to 2012, I co-ran Harvard's Renaissance Colloquium.