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Pretty Creatures

Children and Fiction in the English Renaissance

Michael Witmore

Publication Year: 2007

Children had surprisingly central roles in many of the public performances of the English Renaissance, whether in entertainments-civic pageants, children's theaters, Shakespearean drama-or in more grim religious and legal settings, as when children were "possessed by demons" or testified as witnesses in witchcraft trials. Taken together, such spectacles made repeated connections between child performers as children and the mimetic powers of fiction in general.

In Pretty Creatures, Michael Witmore examines the ways in which children, with their proverbial capacity for spontaneous imitation and their imaginative absorption, came to exemplify the virtues and powers of fiction during this era. As much concerned with Renaissance poetics as with children's roles in public spectacles of the period, Pretty Creatures attempts to bring the antics of children-and the rich commentary these antics provoked-into the mainstream of Renaissance studies, performance studies, and studies of reformation culture in England. As such, it represents an alternative history of the concept of mimesis in the period, one that is built from the ground up through reflections on the actual performances of what was arguably nature's greatest mimic: the child.

Published by: Cornell University Press


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pp. 1-2

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 3-6


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

Early modern authors often described their books as children, perhaps because both were demanding of their time but ultimately offered a certain kind of hope. The demands of raising this “child” were eased by the generous help of friends, colleagues, students, and a number of institutions. ...

Note on Modernization

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pp. ix-x

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pp. 1-19

When he posed in profile for the portrait opposite, Edward Tudor was nine years old. By almost any measure of age familiar to his elders, the crown prince was still a child, lacking those qualities of reason, policy, and prudence that he would need when he became king scarcely a year later. ...

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1. Ut Pueritas Poesis: The Child and Fiction in the English Renaissance

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pp. 20-57

The perils of credulity in the face of lies, fiction, and imposture were well known in antiquity and the Middle Ages; they did not have to be invented by anxious Protestants like William Bedell, who compared Catholic ritual to a perverse form of childish play; nor by skeptical philosophers like Francis Bacon, ...

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2. Animated Children in Elizabeth’s Coronation Pageant of 1559

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pp. 58-94

The road ahead was lined with ranking members of civic guilds, dressed for the occasion in their distinctive livery robes. Choruses of little singers had been arranged on either side of the twisting path, their voices rising in lavish praise as the new potentate moved along the preordained path. ...

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3. Phatic Metadrama and the Touch of Irony in English Children’s Theater

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pp. 95-136

In The Arte of English Poesie (1589), George Puttenham tells an interesting story about the uses and abuses of rhetoric in diplomatic exchange. The story is meant to illustrate the foolishness of feigned deference in social situations that instead require threats and resolve: ...

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4. Mamillius, The Winter’s Tale, and the Impetus of Fiction

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pp. 137-170

Shakespeare scholars have sometimes associated his late plays with childhood, suggesting that the indifference shown to the canons of probability in The Tempest, Pericles, The Winter’s Tale, Cymbeline, and The Two Noble Kinsmen expresses a new, childlike indulgence of the poet’s imagination unseen in preceding plays. ...

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5. The Lies Children Tell: Counterfeiting Victims and Witnesses in Early Modern English Witchcraft Trials and Possessions

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pp. 171-212

In the spring of 1634, a boy named Edmund Robinson started turning up at churches in the Pendle Forest region of eastern Lancashire to demonstrate an extraordinary skill. On Sundays, his father and several other men would carry him from church to church, where he would scan the parishioners and, looking over the anxious sea of faces, ...

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pp. 213-222

In 1727, at the end of his eighty-five-year life, the English natural philosopher Isaac Newton—by this time famed for his work on optics and the laws of planetary motion—is said to have uttered the following words: ...


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pp. 223-234

E-ISBN-13: 9780801463556
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801443992

Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2007

Edition: 1