Educational Resources for Teachers

Ableism

Cheyne, Ria. Disability, Literature, Genre: Representation and Affect in Contemporary Fiction. Liverpool University Press, 2019. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctvsn3pp7.

 

Throughout the play of Romeo and Juliet, the love language between the two star-crossed lovers is oftentimes depicted through metaphors of disability to convey and evoke an emotive response to the volatility of the characters’ emotional state. In this open access resource, Cheyne highlights the effect that associating a central romantic protagonist, especially in tragedies, with disability has on audience reception to an author’s attempt to achieve a sense of emotional justice, or reader satisfaction, through social perceptions towards disability. In Romeo and Juliet, much of this language is expressed by or in reference to Romeo and the metaphorical blindness or madness his love inflicts upon him. In her work, Cheyne provides an analysis on why the implications of disability would play a more prominent role on the male protagonist in a romance and its suggestion towards the undesirability of the shared romantic future between the romantic protagonists.


Lapointe, Grace. “Finding Alternatives to Ableist Language.” Medium, 5 December 2019, https://gracelapointe.medium.com/finding-alternatives-to-ableist-language-627f8680810. Accessed 20 November 2020.

 

This blog post is an easy to understand explanation of what ableist language is and how it is often used unknowingly or in a metaphor. The author specifically mentions Shakespeare in her blog post when speaking on clichés that have ableist language. Sensory metaphors (mostly blind ones) are scattered throughout his work, especially when speaking about love or decision making. The blog post also uses modern examples of ableist language to help relate to students more effectively. This is a great way to introduce the concept of unnecessary ableism and even get discussions started on other ways Shakespeare could have written the line without it.


Schor, Naomi. “Blindness as Metaphor.” differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies, vol. 11 no. 2, 1999, p. 76-105. Project MUSE https://muse.jhu.edu/article/9603.

 

Throughout Romeo and Juliet, there are frequent nods to blindness. However, it is attributed as a metaphor rather than an actual disability. When using the term “blind” rather than, for example, “ignore,” ableist language is being used. By equating blindness to a conscious decision to ignore a problem, Shakespeare is participating in the social prejudice against people who are blind. This essay goes into how harmful ableist language is to people who are blind. Although it does not directly cite Shakespeare’s work, it is easily applicable to his plays as he frequently uses the term “blind.”


Wood, David Houston. “Shakespeare and Disability Studies.” Literature Compass, vol. 8, no. 5, 2011, pp. 316-326. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1741-4113.2011.00803.x.

 

Wood’s scholarly article details three representations of disability that can be identified in Shakespeare’s works: demonstrable forms of disability (e.g., limping), covert forms of disability (e.g., chronic pain), and performance-histories of disability (e.g., staging decisions). Exploration of disability representations allows for larger conversations surrounding stigma, oppression, and otherness within Shakespeare’s writing. While the Shakespearean works pointed to in this article do not include Romeo and Juliet, students can attempt to identify examples of Wood’s representations of disability in the play. In doing so, students will be able to have conversations centered around such topics as desirability that are innate to the romantic tragedy.

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Romeo and Juliet by Rebecca Olson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.