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Lorna Giltrow-Shaw

Languages and Literature, University of Birmingham

Thesis title:

“This low built house will bring us to our ends”: Plague quarantine and prophylactic boundaries in early modern drama and culture, 1593-1625

My work examines the ways in which plague prevention practices and plague-related public health measures condition both theatrical and cultural space within early modern England. As theatre offers a locus for sharing the human experience, creative interactions with early modern plague prevention methods and models may offer crucial insights into how plague driven socio-spatial orders were understood, assimilated, and experienced. These latent experiences will be engaged with through examining the applied prophylactic practices within three distinct early modern spaces; The Body, The Home, and The Community to discover how such measures reoriented the social and spatial paradigms within the work of Shakespeare and his contemporaries. As a result, my research also begins to assess the cultural impact of early modern plague-time spatial ordering beyond the walls of the playhouse, and imagines how the applied material and sensory prophylaxes galvanised space between people, places, and objects within wider culture during outbreaks of the disease. My aim is to explore these dramatic articulations of plague-time space as alert and critical models of contemporary prophylactic practice and as extant cultural records of a largely undocumented early modern experience. Subsequently, my research will not only further illustrate the importance of early modern theatre as a store of cultural memory and emotive engagement, but it also hopes to invite new debates within the field of medical humanities and theatre history by considering the historical dynamic between disease prevention and human creativity which, in light of our own pandemic experiences, is a timely and important pursuit. 

Research Area

  • Languages and Literature



-'Jacobean plague policy reform and Shakespeare's Measure for Measure'- Research Seminar, The Shakespeare Institute. Chair: Simon Smith, October 2022.
-"The Plague of COVID-19?" The impact of the current pandemic on my work. Research Seminar, The Shakespeare institute. Chair: Tiffany Stern, 24th February 2022.
-"Lock the doors up fast": Examining early modern plague prevention practices in John Fletcher's The Woman's Prize. The British Graduate Shakespeare Conference (online) 23rd August 2021.
-"Were it not possible for thee to become an honest dog yet": Contextualising the Witch of Edmonton's Dog Within Early Modern Plague Culture. The British Graduate Shakespeare Conference, The Shakespeare Institute (online) 20th September 2020.
-The Changing Nature of Hospitality in Early Modern Plague Culture: Key Primary Texts. Early Modern Texts: Challenges, Methods and Materiality Online Research PGR Showcase, University of Birmingham, 16th September 2020.
 -"Death... dogs them into their own houses": The Pestilential Pooch in the Collaborative Jacobean Play The Witch of Edmonton.'Reconsidering Illness and Recovery in the Early Modern World Online Conference. 18th-19th August 2020.
-The plague is i'th house:' Plague Quarantine in the Indoor Early Modern Playhouse'. The British Graduate Shakespeare Conference, The Shakespeare Institute, Stratford-upon-Avon, June 2018.

Public Engagement & Impact

Present- Guest Lecturer in Shakespeare Studies- The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

"The Plague and the Early Modern Playhouse"- King Edward VI College- Aspire programme Lecture. March 2022.

2016-2022- Drama Education Assistant and EFL Speaker at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. Teaching range: Key stage 3-5 and above.

Institut Catholique de Vendee (ICES) 'Performing Shakespeare Masterclass'. Delivered 3-day intensive course for EFL undergraduates. 2017-2018.


Other Research Interests

Early Modern Playhouse Culture
Medical Humanities
Sensory Studies
Performance Practice
Theatre History 
Creative Practice as Research


Shakespeare Association of America
The Bristish Shakespeare Association
The Malone Society