Demonstrable Disability

  • Katherine Williams University of Toronto


This essay is about how disability rhetoric functions in early modern plays beyond the visible difference of disabled characters. In a medium that makes meaning out of bodies, disability rhetoric registers how much the language of disqualification can only succeed without the human form of the actor. Disability epithets define other bodies on the stage as whole and unmarked by negation, or, by contrast, have the effect of unsettling the scrutiny of the bodies that are onstage. Attention to disability rhetoric thus offers an instructive study because it succinctly outlines the concepts that ossify into, and serve to naturalize, negative images of early modern disability.

Author Biography

Katherine Williams, University of Toronto

Katherine Schaap Williams ( is an assistant professor in the department of English at University of Toronto.

Issues in Review Essays