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Shakespeare and Disgust, with Bradley J. Irish

Shakespeare Unlimited: Episode 229

Maybe there really was something rotten in Denmark. On this episode, we talk with Bradley J. Irish about disgust in Shakespeare. In his new book, Irish identifies the emotion, which combines physical revulsion and moral outrage, as one of the central thematic emotions in Shakespeare’s plays. In his close readings across the canon, Irish finds disgust everywhere: in Caius Martius Coriolanus’s disdain for ordinary Romans, in the over-indulgent food Antony eats in Egypt, in Henry IV’s preoccupation with sickness and disease in Henry IV, and beyond. Bradley Irish is interviewed by Barbara Bogaev.

Listen to Shakespeare Unlimited on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Soundcloud, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Bradley J. Irish is a professor at Arizona State University. Shakespeare and Disgust: The History and Science of Early Modern Revulsion is out now from Bloomsbury Publishing.

From the Shakespeare Unlimited podcast series. Published February 13, 2024. © Folger Shakespeare Library. All rights reserved. This episode was produced by Matt Frassica. Garland Scott is the associate producer. It was edited by Gail Kern Paster. Ben Lauer is the web producer. Leonor Fernandez edits our transcripts. We had technical help from Voice Trax West in Studio City, California. Final mixing services provided by Clean Cuts at Three Seas, Inc.

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MICHAEL WITMORE: Watching a great production of one of Shakespeare’s plays always stirs strong emotions—anguish, anxiety, maybe fear, joy, camaraderie, even love. Our guest on today’s episode thinks the emotional key to many of the plays isn’t any of these. It’s disgust.

From the Folger Shakespeare Library, this is Shakespeare Unlimited. I’m Michael Witmore, the Folger Director.

The words “disgust” or “disgusting” don’t appear anywhere in Shakespeare’s work. Instead, he uses synonyms like “foul” or “vile” to get at the feeling we might call disgust. It’s an emotion that connects physical repulsion with a sense of moral outrage. Arizona State University professor Bradley J. Irish argues that this emotion plays a central thematic role in plays as different as Titus Andronicus and Hamlet.

In his book Shakespeare and Disgust: The History and Science of Early Modern Revulsion, Irish toggles between today’s scientific accounts of disgust and close readings of Shakespeare’s plays. He finds disgust everywhere in Shakespeare’s canon: in the disdain Coriolanus feels for ordinary Romans, in the over-indulgent food Antony eats in Egypt, in the dwelling on sickness and disease in Henry IV. Irish argues that Shakespeare routinely uses disgust as an engine of his character’s motives.

Here’s Bradley Irish, in conversation with Barbara Bogaev.


BARBARA BOGAEV: You’ve written broadly about emotion in Tudor times. How did that research lead you to looking specifically at disgust?

BRADLEY IRISH: I’ve been working on disgust for close to 15 years now, I guess, going back to my days as a graduate student.


IRISH: Yeah. My dissertation explored a variety of emotions in 16th-century literature, and disgust was one of them. That turned into my first book, Emotion in the Tudor Court, which came out in 2018.

After writing that book, I kept having the feeling that that there was more to say about revulsion. The topic just kind of stayed in the back of my mind.

BOGAEV: Revulsion at the back of your mind?

IRISH: Exactly. Exactly.

BOGAEV: Let’s define our terms. What is disgust?

IRISH: I think that the most helpful place to go is to the modern affective sciences, and that’s what I use in my own research. Psychologists basically believe that the human disgust system is a mechanism that’s basically designed to help keep us safe by encouraging us to maintain our distance from things that might cause us harm. It likely began as a psychological mechanism to help us avoid eating poisonous substances. That’s why spoiled and rotten food is really the prototypical disgust elicitor, and why the general physiological response to disgust, which is like the tightening of the throat or nausea or vomiting, that primes us to avoid the oral incorporation of something dangerous. Or, if necessary, to expel it by vomiting.

BOGAEV: That’s why you call it the “gatekeeper emotion.”

IRISH: Yes, yes.

BOGAEV: We just don’t let things in our gate that disgust.

IRISH: Exactly. And, when the emotion started, it’s literally, you know, our mouth is the gate that we’re talking about.

BOGAEV: But then it evolved, it sounds like, into a more symbolic, kind of, gatekeeping.

IRISH: Yeah. There are some fascinating ways in which the history of disgust sort of tells a history of human development and human evolution, in the sense that it started as this food regulation process, but it slowly began to take on a role regulating behaviors to anything that might put us in contact with harmful pathogens.

Then, all of a sudden, there are a whole bunch of different things that can trigger the emotions: things related to hygiene, disease, animals, sex, contact with strangers, et cetera.

Then, what’s kind of most remarkable of all is that the psychological system designed to keep us safe from physical contaminants also came to help regulate moral behavior.

Basically, scientists believe that in the course of human social evolution, The disgust mechanism extended its reach beyond simply regulating the behavior of our physical body. It came to similarly regulate the behavior of our social body. It came to concern symbolic contamination of our social world triggered by ideas or behaviors that violate cherished morals or values.

What’s fascinating to me is that these two components are really connected. Experimental research in laboratories, for example, shows that when people hear about a morally offensive act, their throat tightens as if they were going to physically vomit up a harmful substance.

BOGAEV: I’m screwing up my face in that gross face right now, right? Is that universal? Does everyone make that face when they’re disgusted.

IRISH: Well, so the disgust face seems to be relatively universal. The question of whether emotions are universal or not is an extremely complex issue in the affective sciences.

It seems that the consensus seems to be that a lot of kind of basic emotions both are and are not universal. So, with disgust—

BOGAEV: You mean it depends? It just varies wildly from time to time or place to place?

IRISH: Yeah. And what it depends on… when we talk about disgust, for example, it seems to be universal in the sense that that basic avoidance system that I mentioned is a pretty typical part of the mental equipment of our species that we have.

But, while we might say that disgust is universal in mechanism, it is not universal in content, in the sense that the specific things that cause disgust vary in different cultural contexts.

So, while the categories of disgust elicitors are relatively stable, such as eating the wrong thing, what actually counts as the wrong thing varies from culture to culture, as we all know. In some cultures, it’s a delicacy to eat spiders, and in some places, eating spiders would cause revulsion. So, the actual content of what triggers disgust changes even if the basic mechanism is the same.

I’ll give you a good example from early modern England that I really love. It seems that in Shakespeare’s time, people were particularly disgusted by frogs and toads. You see that all over the place.

BOGAEV: Witches’ brew.

IRISH: Yeah, exactly. And, today, you know, if you see a toad that’s pretty large, it can get a little gross. But we don’t seem to have that immediate association of, “Oh, that’s revolting,” that early modern people in Shakespeare’s day had when they saw toads.

So, things change across time, things change from place to place, but that same basic avoidance mechanism seems to be the same.

BOGAEV: Well, thank you for getting us to Shakespeare. Now, you have started to tell us about the whole—the broad categories that elicit disgust. What are they? And, at some point, you notice that these are the same things that Shakespeare finds interesting. I’m curious when that dawned on you.

IRISH: Yeah. So, it turns out that that those basic categories of disgust that I’ve mentioned are the general principles of where disgust is triggered. Things related to food, disease, animals, sex, death, corpses, contact with strangers, et cetera. Those are the types of things that pretty reliably trigger disgust across the world.

I just sort of noticed that in so many of Shakespeare’s plays, those individual categories seem to be of particular interest to him as a poet and as a playwright. We find images from disease, images of food, images of animals, deployed all throughout Shakespeare’s work.

The more I looked into it, the more I started to think that there was this connection between disgust as a mechanism of human behavior and disgust as something that really interested to Shakespeare.

BOGAEV: Which is wild, because you point out the word “disgust” was new to print in Shakespeare’s time.

IRISH: So that’s what’s really fascinating, is that the English word “disgust”—which ultimately comes from the Latin word for distaste—literally seems to have come into the language during Shakespeare’s adult life. The earliest printed example we’ve been able to find so far is from 1596.

BOGAEV: Huh. Late.

IRISH: So, Shakespeare never in his work—Shakespeare never in his life uses the term “disgust.” But what he does use is a variety of what I call “disgust proximate words.”

BOGAEV: “Murder most foul.”

IRISH: Right. Terms like “foul,” “vile,” “loathsome,” “filthy,” “rotten.” What’s crucial in these words is that in Shakespeare’s time—as really today too—they all had the ability to simultaneously signal things that are offensive to the moral senses and to the physical senses. That really captures that dual impulse of the disgust system that I was talking about.

We see this, for example, in Hamlet where Shakespeare talks about a “foul and pestilent congregation of vapors.” That’s obviously something very physically gross. But, he also talks about old Hamlet’s “foul crimes done in my days of nature,” which are crimes that are morally upsetting.

Words like “foul” do that double duty. That’s why I think that they are approximate to what we mean in English today by the word “disgusting.”

BOGAEV: Well, we’re going to get to Hamlet. But you start with Shakespeare’s perhaps most disgusting play, Titus Andronicus.  I just love the rundown of brutality that you quote from one of your colleagues: “Fourteen killings, six severed members, one or two or three rapes, one live burial, one case of insanity, and one of cannibalism for an average of 5.2 atrocities per act.” It’s so scientific. You provide a context for the play in the early modern culture of spectacular disgust. Maybe you could explain what that is and why Renaissance England was considered an age of repellent fascination?

IRISH: Right. That’s one of the things that I find most interesting about disgust. It requires us to once again go back to the science. The emotion we know causes us to recoil from repulsive things, but it seems that humans actually have an attentional bias towards disgusting objects even as they make us uneasy.

I think we really see that that dynamic of both attraction and repulsion played out all throughout Shakespeare’s England, because there are a number of disgusting things that, sort of, got transformed into objects of fascination. I’m talking about, you know, cultural practices like public executions, public human dissections for scientific purposes. Textual interest in things like gruesome crimes or the so called “monstrous births” and even medicinal cannibalism.

These kinds of things are repulsive. They’re everywhere in early modern England, and people were captivated by them.

BOGAEV: It all seems to prompt this question whether the early moderns had a very different understanding of disgust or just a much higher threshold for it because it was all around them?

IRISH: That’s an absolutely vital question. I think that that would be the assumption that, you know, simply things like the closer proximity to death, or the lack of sanitation and hygiene, and things like that relative to our own world, would cause them to have a higher disgust sensitivity. And we might think that they do, to some degree. But, what I find really interesting is that people in the period are still registering and acknowledging that they are repulsed by these very things. We have people who record feeling completely grossed out by seeing a public execution or a public mutilation or a public torture.


IRISH: It’s not simply that they had a higher disgust threshold and they weren’t disgusted by these things. They were disgusted by them, but they nonetheless continued to consume them for exactly that reason that I mentioned earlier, the fact that disgusting things are captivating.

BOGAEV: But alright. Back to Titus. What does all of this have to do with Titus?

IRISH: Well, I think that it fundamentally gets to the question of why would this play be popular. People have thought about that for quite a while now. Scholars have to ask, “Why would this absolutely brutal play be so popular in Shakespeare’s time.”

And, indeed, why would it be so popular today? I mean, in recent revivals in the last decade, people literally faint and vomit and complain about bad dreams after seeing Titus being performed. I think that really it’s the captivating feature of disgust that helps account for that.

Now, people who work on aesthetic theory, for example, talk about how there’s a kind of aesthetic disgust, a pleasure that we might take in being disgusted by art. Scientists also have a theory of that. Basically, the idea is that humans like to feel sensations, including dangerous sensations when they know that they’re actually safe. This is something that’s called “benign masochism.”

People have sort of posited that maybe that that accounts for disgustingness in art. We like the sensation of being disgusted by what we see on Titus’s stage. Particularly because we know it’s not actually real, and it’s not going to harm us. I think that the kind of question of why does this play even have an audience is something that can actually be answered by turning to disgust.

BOGAEV: I’m just curious: How does your immersion in the science and the scholarship of a disgust affect your own experience of it? I mean, are you more or less prone to disgust because you think about it a lot?

IRISH: Yes. Yes. Exactly. I think I have a very high disgust sensitivity. I have a particularly sensitive stomach, and I get grossed out by food very easily.  But I also get grossed out by things more beyond food.

I think that I’m very disgust sensitive, but I also think I have a particular captivation factor when it comes to disgusting things even as they horrify me.

I personally have never had a chance see Titus performed, but I would jump at the chance to see even one of the most, you know, notoriously horrifying productions—which I would watch between my fingers probably. But I’m very fascinated by it.

So, in some ways, I think I was the perfect person to write this book because I’m both very disgusted, but I also am really fascinated by it.

BOGAEV: Can I ask what food disgusts you?

IRISH: As a child, I was severely disgusted by peanut butter. To the point where the thought of it, and the smell of it, and even seeing it on grocery store aisles, can make me feel like I want to vomit.

BOGAEV: I’m so sorry.

IRISH: Yes. Exactly. That’s the kind of evil food in my household.

BOGAEV: Okay. Well, now we’re talking about food and disgust, which you point out comes up in Antony and Cleopatra a lot. Shakespeare uses it throughout the play. But to what end? Can you give us some examples?

IRISH: Yeah. Antony and Cleopatra is absolutely fascinating because scholars have long recognized the centrality of food and also appetite more generally to the play, but I think that disgust has to be part of that equation too.

Because, basically, Antony’s physical excesses in Egypt, when it comes to both food and sex, are construed as both viscerally and morally offensive by his opponents. In the sense that, by rights, he should be disgusted by all the things he’s indulging in.

What’s really interesting about this whole sort of dynamic is that Shakespeare actually makes an alteration to his source, Plutarch, to really emphasize the idea of disgust. Because when Plutarch describes Antony’s time as a soldier, he’s said to be so austere that he survives by drinking puddle water and eating unfamiliar animals. When Shakespeare comes to reproduce that passage, he adds the pretty repulsive detail that Anthony not only ate so much strange flesh that it disgusted his fellow soldiers, but also completely invents the fact that he also drank horse urine as part of his time as a soldier and apparently didn’t have any trouble with it. Shakespeare really, really amplifies—

BOGAEV: He amps up the descriptions. I mean, it’s almost like a Hollywood script doctor. He’s punching up the dialogue, right, and getting specific.

IRISH: Yes. He punches it up. He amplifies this language of disgust to show how low Antony was able to stoop in the field. This kind of naturally contrasts with the life of luxury he’s enjoying in Egypt. In other words, Antony the Soldier’s enthusiasm for disgusting food is taken as a sign of moral excellence earlier. Now, Antony the Lover’s enthusiasm for the presumably tasty food of Egypt is taken as a sign of his moral degeneration. The play really uses food as an index of morality in this very interesting way.

BOGAEV: Well, as you say, scholars have long talked about the play in terms of images of food and the use of food. How does adding disgust to the mix help us understand or illuminate it?

IRISH: Well, I think that it shows why there’s such uneasiness with Antony’s consumption in the play. It helps account for why Antony’s luxurious consumption in Egypt is such a source of moral degeneration for his various onlookers back in Rome.

I think the idea is that by disgust as something that links moral indulgences with physical appetite indulgences, it shows how why exactly these characters are so—I guess, lack of a better word—say they’re so disgusted by Antony’s behavior. That behavior is linked to consuming food, to having sexual excesses with Cleopatra, et cetera. I think disgust really links those moral and visceral offenses.

BOGAEV: Well, moving on to Othello, the play is most often analyzed in terms of otherness and dehumanization. Certainly, disgust plays into dehumanizing others.

What does the disgust angle add to that? I mean, it would seem that you’d use disgust to augment racial otherness and dehumanization.

IRISH: Yeah. I think that’s exactly right. You know, jealousy is the most immediate and obvious emotional context in Othello, but I’ve come to think the play really is about the operation of disgust at an important level.

We all know that because Othello is a racial outsider in Venice, one of the ways Iago destroys him is by leveraging the racism of other characters. I think what’s really crucial is that he does this by routinely characterizing Othello with disgust-based concepts.

BOGAEV: Right in from the start of the play. Right in the opening scene. Remind us—could you give us an example?

IRISH: Well, so yeah. So, again, even the “beast with two backs,” the sort of sexuality and animalism. The sense that he’s connected to foul witchcraft, which Brabantio assumes he must have used to win his daughter over.

Words like “foul” and “loathsome” get connected by Shakespeare to Othello throughout. Even, you know, when he’s talking about Desdemona’s love for Othello, to Rodrigo, he says, eventually Desdemona will get sick of him and almost vomit him up. There’s this way in which the lexicon of disgust becomes crucial to how Iago leverages racism.

BOGAEV: Yeah. And here we get into this idea of disgust being construed as something like a pathogen, a germ. It’s infectious, and it infects others. As in, Desdemona’s love of Othello infects her and makes her disgusting, and that’s something Iago weaponizes.

IRISH: Right. Because Iago even is able to convince Othello that his wife couldn’t possibly love him because she too is secretly repulsed by his blackness, supposedly. She becomes infected. Everyone who’s in contact with Othello becomes infected.

There’s a way in which I think that the sort of pathogen-based concerns of disgust are really at play here. I think that here’s a point where we can once again turn to the sciences, because what’s really interesting is that modern science has performed countless experiments that demonstrate the linkage between disgust and racism or xenophobia. The theory is basically that in ancestral environments, people from other places might be carrying diseases that you’re not immune to. Disgust would be very sensitive to that.

So, in some people, the disgust system seems to unconsciously identify those from racial or ethnic outgroups as more susceptible to causing disease and something to be feared.

BOGAEV: This is where we get into kind of an evolutionary legacy of disgust?

IRISH: Exactly. That exactly is why, unfortunately, when we think of racist and xenophobic rhetoric today, it so often connects to notions of disgust. Whether it’s associating people from other cultures with dirt or disease or vermin, calling immigrants a plague, for example, as we’ve recently seen. All of those things get painted with the language of disgust because there seems to be in our deep evolutionary legacy, the sense that people from other cultures may have triggered that disgust system, and that’s really an unfortunate byproduct.

No one, of course, is saying that because this is an evolutionary heritage that it’s okay to associate people from other groups with disease. It just seems that this is an unfortunate consequence that has manifestations that are very real and concrete in our world today. It links back to how that disgust system developed tens of thousands of years ago.

BOGAEV: It’s so intractable. I mean, this is real lizard brain stuff.

IRISH: Exactly. Yeah. Exactly. Some of this is incredibly involuntary. It’s interesting because scientists connect it to the distaste mechanism that is ubiquitous in other animals.

We all can tell when our dog eats something in their face that they don’t like. They’re scrunching their face up. Or, you have birds that wipe their beak when they taste something they don’t like. There’s a kind of deep evolutionary heritage.

And what’s really interesting is how that distaste mechanism, which is common to mammals and beyond, gets elaborated socially through the kind of human system of disgust.

BOGAEV: Well, we have to leave some time for Hamlet. “Something’s rotten in the state of Denmark”; We have to talk about Hamlet in a conversation about disgust. You argue that disgust is at the center of the play’s dramatic and thematic action. Make the case.

IRISH: Sure. Okay. In my book, I argue that Hamlet is a character who protects himself with disgust, particularly in the first half of the play. Hamlet, we all know, has a tendency to be disgusted by the things that he encounters in the world. Critics have long talked about that. And, the play has a general atmosphere of disgust. “Something is rotten in Denmark,” as you say.

But the other thing that’s really interesting to me is that the character of Hamlet also has an existential anxiety about death. That’s largely what the “To be or not to be” speech is about.

I argue that these two features of Hamlet are actually connected, because some modern psychologists, particularly those from a tradition called terror management theory, argue that disgust is actually a mechanism that helps protect us from death anxiety. Many of the things that trigger disgust in us remind us of the potential frailness of the human body, and the fact that that our bodies are simply an animal shell that’s fated and destined to die. These scientists believe that the things that remind us of our animality trigger disgust because they remind us that we are simply biological creatures made of flesh and blood who will eventually die and decay like any other animal. Disgust helps buffer that anxiety about death by encouraging us to distance ourselves from such reminders of our animal morality.

BOGAEV: And sex—what you call sex nausea—is also part of that because sex is so much a reminder of our animalistic self.

IRISH: Yes. Absolutely. I think that that, you know… this kind of disgust dynamic that I mentioned also really helps account for Hamlet’s infamous aversion to sexuality which has been commented on endlessly throughout the 20th century

It turns out that that sex is another pretty reliable category of disgust elicitor. Not only because sex potentially exposes us to disease, but also because sex fundamentally reminds us of our animality.

So Hamlet’s, I think, overwhelming disgust towards sex is very much connected to his fundamental, sort of, existential mortality terror which was triggered by the by the trauma of his father’s death. I think that the sex disgust is connected to the fear of death very profoundly.

BOGAEV: How do you see disgust figuring then in Hamlet’s evolution in the play, from “To be or not to be” to the fatalism at the end, to “Let be.”

IRISH: Well, I think that that Hamlet’s ability to finally act comes when he discovers a way to buffer his existential anxiety about death.

In the “To be or not to be” speech, he’s terrified of death’s unknowability, and he refuses to take consolation in a spiritual worldview. But by the time we reach Act 5, he comes to accept something like a Christian providential worldview. Because when he finally gives that famous “Let be” speech, he explicitly refers to the following falling of a sparrow in Matthew 10:29.

These terror management theorists believe that cultural world views, such as vitally, religion, are the primary way that we combat the existential fear of death, because they give us a sense that we’re something more important than just animals.

I think that that what really happens is that, between the “To be or not to be” speech and Act 5, Hamlet goes through a series of encounters that makes death more salient to him. The sense that he is now aware that he himself is being targeted to be killed by Claudius. The fact that he, now, himself is a murderer, having killed Polonius. The fact that he encounters Yorick’s skull in the graveyard. Then the fact that he encounters Ophelia’s funeral.

All of those things make death so overwhelmingly salient that the disgust mechanism that he’d used before can no longer compensate. It can no longer buffer that anxiety, so, he has to come up with a consolation, which is that sort of fatalistic worldview. I think that very much we can track that progression of Hamlet’s character in the sense that he finally comes to be comfortable enough with death that he can take the action that ultimately ends in his own demise.

BOGAEV: Are you done with disgust now?

IRISH: You know, I’m not quite. I’m starting to work on some other emotions. I have a book on envy and jealousy that I’m finishing up and hoping to get out in the world pretty soon.

But for example, I am interested in Shakespeare’s contemporaries as well. I have an essay that should be coming out probably later this year or early next year on disgust in Webster’s fantastic tragedy The Duchess of Malfi.

One of the things that I hope that my book would inspire some people to do is think about disgust elsewhere in Shakespeare’s contemporaries, and I’ve started to do that a little bit with Webster. But, I think the basic dynamics of disgust that I talk about could be could be good fuel for all sorts of scholarly investigation. So, I may be mostly done with it for now, but I hope that other people will take it up.

BOGAEV: You hope it’ll infect other people’s imaginations.

IRISH: Exactly.

BOGAEV: I was thinking that you were diagnosed as an adult with autism. And, first, just how did you feel about that diagnosis?

IRISH: So that’s… I mean, that has been the most wonderful life changing thing for me, when I was diagnosed. I had sort of always suspected maybe five percent that that was a situation that I was in, but it was always… I always sort of treated as a joke, so it came as a true surprise when I actually got the formal diagnosis. But it was like a light switch flipping on. All of a sudden, so many aspects of my life made sense, and so many ways that I sort of inhabit and interact with the world made more sense. So, it’s been the most remarkable two years since I got that diagnosis.

BOGAEV: Wow. Well, like what? Because it seems like there’s a direct line between your neurodivergence and this interest in analyzing emotions. I mean, do you throughout your life or did you approach emotions like an anthropologist or an academic?

IRISH: I think that’s exactly right. One of the things that this amazing self-discovery has done is completely recontextualize my own relationship to my scholarly work. Especially the fact that I’ve always been interested in human psychology and emotions. Now, you know neurodivergent people experience emotional atypicality in different ways. For some, emotions are relatively muted, while for others emotions are much more vibrant and overwhelming. I’m definitely in the latter category. It may start to make a bit more sense why I’ve always been fascinated in trying to figure out how emotions work because I’m also trying to figure out how my own brain works.

And, to get what you said about the sort of analytical approach, you know, autistic people sometimes find that certain human interactions don’t come across as naturally to us as they do to neurotypical people. The way that we compensate for this is through the analysis of things like social rules to make up for the fact that the rhythms of social behavior don’t come to us as naturally as others.

Without knowing it consciously, I think that why I’ve always been interested in analyzing emotions in psychology is because I’m trying to make sense of my own brain and make sense of the world that I fit in and the way I interact with the world. So now suddenly my scholarly career makes so much more sense.

BOGAEV: Well, really interesting to talk with you. I really enjoyed it. Thank you.

IRISH: Thank you so much for having me. It’s truly an honor to get speak with you, and I’m so grateful that you took the time to look at my book.

BOGAEV: Oh, it was such a pleasure. I can’t wait to read about envy.


WITMORE: That was Bradley Irish, speaking to Barbara Bogaev.

Shakespeare and Disgust: The History and Science of Early Modern Revulsion is out now from Bloomsbury Publishing.

This episode was produced by Matt Frassica. Garland Scott is the associate producer. It was edited by Gail Kern Paster. Ben Lauer is the web producer, with help from Leonor Fernandez. We had technical help from Voice Trax West in Studio City, California. Final mixing services provided by Clean Cuts at Three Seas, Inc.

If you’re a fan of Shakespeare Unlimited, please leave us a review on your podcast platform of choice, to help others find the show.

Shakespeare Unlimited comes to you from the Folger Shakespeare Library. Home to the world’s largest Shakespeare collection, the Folger is dedicated to advancing knowledge and the arts. Our building in Washington, DC has been under construction for the past four years. But we’re looking forward to fully reopening on June 21, 2024. You can find more about the Folger at our website,

Thanks for listening. For the Folger Shakespeare Library, I’m Folger Director Michael Witmore.