Introduction: Dangerous Remedies
Opening with an examination of the drug love-in-idleness in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, this introductory chapter discusses the proliferation of drugs and poisons on the English Renaissance stage. It situates playwrights’ fascination with these substances in the context of upheavals in contemporary pharmacy and resulting worries about the powerful but ambivalent effects of newly available herbs and chemicals. These newly intensified concerns offered a compelling vocabulary for longstanding debates about the effects of literature on consumers’ minds and bodies, in particular for defending and attacking the theater’s reputation as a form of remedy. Through their depictions of drugs’ effects, playwrights entered into debates with both anti-theatricalists and defenders of the theater, taking an active role in defining their medium and its consequences for audiences.
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