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Monstrous Metamorphosis: Nature, Morality, and the Rhetoric of Monstrosity in Tudor England

Kathryn M. Brammall
The Sixteenth Century Journal
Vol. 27, No. 1 (Spring, 1996), pp. 3-21
DOI: 10.2307/2544266
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2544266
Page Count: 19
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Monstrous Metamorphosis: Nature, Morality, and the Rhetoric of Monstrosity in Tudor England
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Abstract

Until the middle of the sixteenth century, established English wisdom identified monsters in substantially the same way it had throughout the previous millennium; thereafter a deviation from the traditional pattern materialized. A relaxation of definition created, by 1570, a type of English monster virtually unknown before 1550, one that lacked any external sign of its inward monstrosity. English authors, anxiously attempting to come to terms with and find a cure for the widespread political, religious, and social tensions of the mid-Tudor period, realized that, with some creative manipulation, the language of monstrosity would prove a powerful rhetorical tool. By focusing increasingly on deviant behavior rather than physical appearance, mid-Tudor authors (perhaps most notably John Knox and John Ponet) gradually transformed the meanings of familiar symbols, creating in the process a rhetoric of great polemical potency and utility.

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