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Shakespearean MaternitiesCrises of Conception in Early Modern England$
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Chris Laoutaris

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780748624362

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748624362.001.0001

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The Cabinet of Wonders: Monstrous Conceptions in the Theatre of Nature

The Cabinet of Wonders: Monstrous Conceptions in the Theatre of Nature

(p.94) Chapter 2 The Cabinet of Wonders: Monstrous Conceptions in the Theatre of Nature
Shakespearean Maternities

Chris Laoutaris

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter shows that the Renaissance grotto and garden were politicised cabinets of wonders in which a maternalised, and potentially monstrous, nature was subjected to the regimen of natural historical investigation in the interests of colonial expansionism. The taxonomical researches of the natural historian show wonders of ‘common’ things, reversing the traditional paradigm which sees ‘rarity’ as the only identifying mark of wonder. Shakespeare's Tempest transports its audience to an artificial island, a world of grotto-like spaces, rocky pools, fertile inlets, streams, underground conduits and groves. He deftly counteracts Prospero's procreative regimen which depends for its success on his definition of Caliban as the monstrous object of the curious gaze. Prospero gives utterance to the parthenogenic vision which has propelled his directorial management of the island's spectacles, seeking to ‘bring forth a wonder’ which will secure his succeeding lineal power in his ‘brave new world’.

Keywords:   nature, Renaissance grotto, garden, Shakespeare, Tempest, Prospero, Caliban

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