Double Dissimulation: Counterfeit Disability in Bartholomew Fair

  • Lindsey Row-Heyveld
Part of the Literary Disability Studies book series (LIDIST)


This chapter explores how Ben Jonson uses the counterfeit-disability tradition as a tool for literary and social critique. Jonson stages dissembled disability twice in Bartholomew Fair (1614), only to send it up—and, by extension, mock playwrights like John Marston who employed it. By transporting the counterfeit-disability trope from tragedy to comedy, Jonson makes audience reaction, rather than theatrical action, the real source of spectacle in Bartholomew Fair. This generic translation insists on counterfeit disability’s flaws as both a stage trope and an instrument of audience instruction. Yet, while Jonson critiques the counterfeit-disability tradition, this chapter also illustrates how he uses it both to criticize the systems of power that sought to define disability in early modern England and, simultaneously, to suggest that disability was difficult to detect, always potentially false, and undeserving of charity.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lindsey Row-Heyveld
    • 1
  1. 1.Luther CollegeDecorahUSA

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