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Renaissance Beasts

Renaissance Beasts: Of Animals, Humans, and Other Wonderful Creatures

Edited by Erica Fudge
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Renaissance Beasts
    Book Description:

    Animals, as Levi-Strauss wrote, are good to think with. This collection addresses and reassesses the variety of ways in which animals were used and thought about in Renaissance culture, challenging contemporary as well as historic views of the boundaries and hierarchies humans presume the natural world to contain._x000B__x000B_Taking as its starting point the popularity of speaking animals in sixteenth-century literature and ending with the decline of the imperial Menagerie during the French Revolution, Renaissance Beasts uses the lens of human-animal relationships to view issues as diverse as human status and power, diet, civilization and the political life, religion and anthropocentrism, spectacle and entertainment, language, science and skepticism, and domestic and courtly cultures._x000B__x000B_Within these pages scholars from a variety of disciplines discuss numerous kinds of texts--literary, dramatic, philosophical, religious, political--by writers including Calvin, Montaigne, Sidney, Shakespeare, Descartes, Boyle, and Locke. Through analysis of these and other writers, Renaissance Beasts uncovers new and arresting interpretations of Renaissance culture and the broader social assumptions glimpsed through views on matters such as pet ownership and meat consumption._x000B__x000B_Renaissance Beasts is certainly about animals, but of the many species discussed, it is ultimately humankind that comes under the greatest scrutiny._x000B__x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09133-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. 1-18)
    Erica Fudge

    In 1634 William Prynne was called before the Star Chamber for “writing and publishinge a scandalous and a libellous Booke againste the State, the Kinge, and all his people.” The book,Histrio-Mastix, was “condempneth . . . to bee in a most ignominyous manner burnte by the hande of the hangman,” and Prynne himself was condemned, among other things, “to loose an eare at eyther place.”¹ Three years later, after an apparent plot “to set up the puritan or separatist faction,”² Prynne, with John Bastwick and Henry Burton, was once again sentenced to have his ears clipped and to have...

  5. 1 Unpicking the Seam: Talking Animals and Reader Pleasure in Early Modern Satire
    (pp. 19-36)
    Kathryn Perry

    Whether they are apocalyptically angry or merely scornful, satires can be recognized by the nature of their engagement with readers. They work toward constructing an alliance between the satirist and the like-minded reader, distancing the reader from the target under scrutiny. Regardless of the seriousness of the subject matter, this alliance typically depends on the satirist’s ability to give the reader pleasure as well as to generate feelings of disgust, bitterness, or alienation. The pleasure taken in satire is not simply the pleasure of laughter; it is more fundamentally the pleasure of unruly fantasy, which might incorporate the manipulation of...

  6. 2 “Bitches and Queens”: Pets and Perversion at the Court of France’s Henri III
    (pp. 37-49)
    Juliana Schiesari

    Desire and the beast intersect in myriad and suggestive ways, to the point of becoming figures for each other: not only is desire metaphorized as beastly, but the beast is also represented as an emblem of desire, especially forbidden or perverse desire. The beastliness of desire is a common staple, since at least Plato, of moralizing discourses that prescribe moderation and restraint of bodily pleasures. However, what one could call (with a certain Lacanian irony), the desireofthe beast retains its fascinating currency across a number of literary texts, going back at least as far as the ancient poems...

  7. 3 Hairy on the Inside: Metamorphosis and Civility in English Werewolf Texts
    (pp. 50-69)
    S. J. Wiseman

    “Her feet were bare: her body was covered with rags and skins: her hair with a gourd leaf; and her face and hands were of the same colour as a negroe’s. . . . Those who saw her first, run away, crying out, ‘There is the devil.’ And indeed her dress and colour might very well produce such thoughts in the country people . . . one of them, thinking probably that the devil was afraid of dogs, set loose upon her a bull dog with an iron collar.”¹ This is the description of a wild girl found in 1731...

  8. 4 Saying Nothing Concerning the Same: On Dominion, Purity, and Meat in Early Modern England
    (pp. 70-86)
    Erica Fudge

    If bear-baiting is the most spectacular display of human dominion over animals in England in the early modern period, then the dinner plate might be figured as the least dramatic. The meal is a place where humans interact with animals on a day-to-day basis, and it seems obvious that this recurring event should form a part of any history of animals. The very domesticity of flesh eating is what makes it interesting. It is almost invisible in its power, but unthought anthropocentrism is more significant and more powerful than any dominion that has to be constantly defended, and it is...

  9. 5 “Why should a dog, a horse, a rat, have life, and thou no breath at all?” Shakespeare’s Animations
    (pp. 87-100)
    Erica Sheen

    When I first read Stephen Greenblatt’s essay “Shakespeare and the Exorcists” in the mid-1980s, my eye was caught by his discussion of Samuel Harsnett’s use of the wordcorkyin hisA Declaration of Egregious Popish Impostures:“It would (I feare mee) pose all the cunning Exorcists that are to this day to be found, to teach an old corkie woman to writhe, tumble, curvet, and fetch her morice gamboles.”¹ Assuming this “unusual” word to mean “sapless, dry, withered,” Greenblatt follows editorial tradition in assuming thatEgregious Popish Impostureswas the source for Shakespeare’s use of the word atKing...

  10. 6 Government by Beagle: The Impersonal Rule of James VI and I
    (pp. 101-115)
    Alan Stewart

    To James VI and I, his principal secretary and later lord treasurer Sir Robert Cecil, earl of Salisbury, was almost invariably “my little beagle.”¹ Thirty-five surviving letters from king to minister open with the greeting,² and in them James elaborated on the theme, praising his “little cankered beagle,” “my patient beagle,” the “king’s best beagle if he hunte well now in the hard ways,” and “the little beagle that lies at home by the fire.”³ James was notorious for providing epithets and nicknames for his counselors; he also had a “fat chancellor,” a “little, saucy constable,” and a “tall, black...

  11. 7 Reading, Writing, and Riding Horses in Early Modern England: James Shirley’s Hyde Park (1632) and Gervase Markham’s Cavelarice (1607)
    (pp. 116-137)
    Elspeth Graham

    Thinking about animals-—animal-human relationships, animals and culture—draws me back again and again to John Berger’s “Why Look at Animals?,” which begins with his claim that the “19th century, in western Europe and North America, saw the beginning of a process . . . by which every tradition which has previously mediated between man and nature was broken. Before this rupture, animals constituted the first circle of what surrounded man. . . . They were with man at the centre of his world.”¹ At about the same time as Berger was writing about changed human relations with animals resulting...

  12. 8 “Can ye not tell a man from a marmoset?”: Apes and Others on the Early Modern Stage
    (pp. 138-163)
    James Knowles

    In the “Induction” to Marston’sAntonio and Mellida(1600) the boy actors debate their upcoming roles in a scene suffused with anxiety about identity, sexuality, and, ultimately, the effects of playing. The boy playing Antonio (who later dresses as an Amazon) suggestively describes his cross-dressed role as “an hermaphrodite, two parts in one,” but the part of Galeatzo, Duke of Florence, is reserved for most comment. This role is described as “a right part for Proteus or Gew; ho, blind Gew would ha’ done’t rarely, rarely.”¹ Proteus provides an obvious figure for the transformative skills both required and threatened by...

  13. 9 Pliny’s Literate Elephant and the Idea of Animal Language in Renaissance Thought
    (pp. 164-185)
    Brian Cummings

    In his catalog of “vulgar errors” committed by natural historians concerning the behavior of animals, Sir Thomas Browne entertained with special relish the odd tale of an elephant that had been taught to speak and write. It is a paradox he describes with simultaneous rough skepticism and whimsical delight: “That some Elephants have not only written whole sentences, as Aelian ocularly testifieth, but have also spoken, as Oppianus delivereth, and Christophorus a Costa particularly relateth, although it sound like that of Achilles horse in Homer, wee doe not conceive impossible.” Browne constructs a number of arguments to show that these...

  14. 10 Reading Vital Signs: Animals and the Experimental Philosophy
    (pp. 186-207)
    Peter Harrison

    Nicolas Malebranche’s striking denial of animal sentience often is regarded as an apposite illustration of the general principle that there is no claim so foolish that some philosopher or other has not argued for it. The position set out here by Malebranche is more commonly associated with René Descartes (1596–1650), author of the notorious “beast-machine” hypothesis. That such a counterintuitive proposal regarding the mental lives of animals emerged in the seventeenth century is usually taken as a sign that during this period the fortunes of animals were at a particularly low ebb. This state of affairs is plausibly attributed...

  15. 11 The Ménagerie and the Labyrinthe: Animals at Versailles, 1662–1792
    (pp. 208-232)
    Matthew Senior

    The Ménagerie of Versailles, built by Louis Le Vau between 1662 and 1664, was one of the first structures to be completed as part of Louis XIV’s vast domain of parks, fountains, buildings, and monuments. An extravagant display of magnificence that only a monarch could afford, the Ménagerie was an architectural innovation that served as a model for the collection and control of animals for nearly a century and a half throughout Europe.

    The animal park at Versailles was, in some sense, a scale model, in design and ideology, of the entire royal project. As Pierre Lablaud observes, the Ménagerie...

    (pp. 233-236)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 237-246)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 247-247)