“Go Touch His Life”: Contagious Malice and the Power of Touch in The Witch of Edmonton

  • Bronwyn Johnston
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Literature, Science and Medicine book series (PLSM)


In this chapter, Johnston considers the links between contagion and the devil in Dekker, Ford, and Rowley’s The Witch of Edmonton (1621). This chapter outlines how the play exhibits a complex model of infection in which pollution and disease are linked inextricably with moral corruption, with the devil serving as the pathogenic transmitter of both. The spread of evil follows a clear pattern of contagion, of infection, treatment, and eradication, in which all transgressions are triggered by touch. Focusing on the demonic agency given to infection, Johnston argues that the devil enables a synthesis of etiologies. The play follows a Frascatorian exogenous model of pathology but it does so within the bounds of an endogenous understanding rooted in the idea of galenic humours.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bronwyn Johnston
    • 1
  1. 1.LondonUK

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