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Every Day Monsters; An Analysis Of The Definition Of Monsters And Marvels In The Middle Ages, Based On The Book "Monsters And Marvels" By Ambroise Pare

1699 words - 7 pages

Every Day Monsters

In the fifteen hundreds, "monsters" were as real as today's politicians and celebrities, and public discourse about them helped contribute to their mythical status in the social realm. No one doubted their existence, their presence created spectacles in any public place, and those who were lucky enough to see these subhuman creatures were quick to confirm that they were, in fact, "real". Perhaps we must determine how one categorized or defined a monster in the Middle Ages, as to make them such a common phenomenon whereas in the twenty-first century, many people think the closest they have come to a real monster is the movie theatre. Ambroise Parè's ...view middle of the document...

"; a problem with the birth of the monster, such as "the narrowness or smallness of the womb"; or, merely through the genetics of the monster, or "hereditary or accidental illnesses" (Parè, 4). These causes are natural, suggesting that the monster is natural as well. Problems while a child was in its mother's womb, causing birth defects and deformities, or a hereditary illness which suggests a disfiguring disease, were enough to consider a child no longer human, but a monster; subhuman.
Of the five remaining causes not relating to the process of birth, God is responsible for two. On the opposing end of the supernatural spectrum, Demons and Devils are also a cause, as well as "wicked spital beggars." It is surprising that in the fifteen hundreds God and the Devil were said to be the cause of the same thing, given the highly influential power of the Christian church at the time, the greatness attributed to God, and his condemnation of all evil (which is often attributed to the Devil.) Much more surprising is that the cause of monsters, almost never looked at as positive beings, was attributed not only to the wrath of God, but to his glory as well.
The cause that I have not yet mentioned does not fit into any of the aforementioned categories. The fifth cause Parè mentions for the existence of monsters is a common cause for their existence in the present as well. It is the imagination. The difference, however, is that the imagination itself was believed to have the ability to summon monsters into reality. Parè warns " is necessary that women- at the hour of conception and when the child is not yet formed...not be forced to look at or to imagine monstrous things..."(Parè, 40). This statement once again links the creation of monsters to their conception, the cause of the monster being that its mother imagined something terrible before it was fully formed, thus her child was transformed into that creature's image.
Many of the monsters considered were children who were born disfigured. Siamese twins, for example, many sited as monsters in Parè's book, were considered to be the product of superfluous matter in their mother's womb. In many cases they were merely one child with extra limbs, determined so by having only one heart, and some were two children joined by their posterior parts. These "monsters" often had short life spans and were sometimes produced in subhuman forms as a result of a defect in the womb. Those with the limbs of two bodies, but the heart of one appeared to be beasts, as their extra limbs were not always in their respective places. Examples of such monsters were a man who had the head of another man in his belly, men who had eyes in the middle of their foreheads, or the man who had the body of another man, save the head, growing from his belly, and had to hold up his legs as he walked.
Similar to children sharing body parts was many children being conceived at once, and, the birth of...

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