Proximity and the Pox: Pathologizing Infidelity in Marston’s Dutch Courtesan


  • Andrew J. Fleck University of Texas, El Paso



John Marston; Dutch Courtesan


Marston’s Dutch Courtesan links the dangers of sexually transmitted infection and false religious doctrine, both spread by the Family of Love. The play finds dark comedy in the syphilis epidemic that urban sexual promiscuity perpetuated and in ridiculous religious heterodoxy. Both seem to thrive on infidelity. By making the tavern-owning Mulligrubs, the sex worker Franceschina, and her bawd Mary Faugh members of the Family of Love, Marston makes the corporeal dangers of illicit sex during an epidemic even more dangerous when its companion is the contagion of Familism, threatening to spread as efficiently as the syphilis ravaging early modern London.

Author Biography

Andrew J. Fleck, University of Texas, El Paso

Andrew Fleck (, associate professor at the University of Texas at El Paso, works on Anglo-Dutch relations and the history of science in the early modern period. In addition to essays in Studies in English Literature, Modern Philology, Journal of British Studies, Studies in Philology, Medieval and Renaisance Drama in England, and JMEMS, he has published shorter notes and essays for a variety of collections. He is currently at work on two monographs. The first examines early modern English and Dutch attitudes toward each other. The second examines early modern responses to developments in natural philosophy and science.






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