Proximity and the Pox: Pathologizing Infidelity in Marston’s 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.
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