The Purchase of Fruitfulness: Assisted Conception and Reproductive Disability in a Seventeenth-Century Comedy
Journal of Medical Humanities 2005 Fall; 26(2-3): 79-96
The relationships between socioeconomic and biogenetic reproduction are always socially constructed but not always acknowledged. These relationships are examined as they apply to an instance of infertility and assisted reproduction presented in a seventeenth-century English play, Thomas Middleton's 1613 comedy, A Chaste Maid in Cheapside. Middleton's satirization of the effects of secrecy on the category of reproductive disability is analyzed and its applicability to our own time considered. The discussion is in four parts, focusing on: the attribution of disabled status to one member of the couple, the wife; the use of this attribution to protect the husband's reputation for sexual and reproductive health; the concealment of the nature of assisted reproduction; and the interests of the child conceived with such assistance.
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