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Anxiety Fiction

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Domestic Poisoning in Early Modern News, Arden of Faversham, and Hamlet

image of Explorations in Renaissance Culture

In response to the representational copia surrounding poisoning, critics have tended to focus on how early modern writers adopted Italianate settings and characters due to the pervasive correlation between poison and Italy in England’s cultural imagination. This critical preoccupation has led to an undervaluing of the role that domestic English news depictions of poison played in the construction of criminality. Contemporary media theorizations concerning the commercial uses of fear help unpack how early modern news reports depicted the threat of household poisoning out of proportion to actual risk in order to profit from developing public anxiety. Popular drama, as evidenced in Arden of Faversham and Hamlet, responded to the news media’s commercialization of fear by creating its own set of “anxiety fictions” that were crucial in defining deviancy and proliferating public apprehension. Ultimately, various forms of cultural media reinforced public fears surrounding the threat of domestic subversion and concomitantly had a negative effect on social and legal policy.

Affiliations: 1: Carleton University


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