Chapter

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

Chris Laoutaris

in Shakespearean Maternities

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print June 2008 | ISBN: 9780748624362
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748671687 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3366/edinburgh/9780748624362.003.0003
The Cabinet of Wonders: Monstrous Conceptions in the Theatre of Nature

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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

Chapter.  21862 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Shakespeare Studies and Criticism

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