Clothes Make the Ape: The Satirical Animal in Rochester's Poetry

Peter DeGabriele


This paper argues that by attending to the role of the ape, or monkey, in Rochester's satirical practice we can reevaluate both the role of the animal in Rochester's work, and the conceptual limits of early modern theriophilic discourse. Previous criticism, focusing on 'A Satyr Against Reason and Mankind', has located Rochester within a stable and defined tradition of theriophily. Recent work in animal studies, however, has necessitated a revised look at the conceptual limits of theriophily, and this also provides an opportunity to look again at Rochester's most famous poem. I argue that Rocehester pushes the limits of theriophily by producing an account of man that is not anthroppocentric.  In Laurie Shannon's terms, man is, for Rochester, an 'unaccomodated animal' who has no proper place in nature. While Shannon focuses on man's tragic insufficiency,  I demonstrate that Rochester's satire shows man as always overgrown and monstrous, even in his nakedness. Rochester uses the imitative ape in his poems 'Artemisia to Chloe' and 'Tunbridge Wells' as a figure of the satirist. Because the ape naturally imitates man merely by mirroring him, man gets caught in the ape's reflective trap and is unable to establish the normative outside of the happy beast common to theriophily. Man is thus decentred in the world by his inability to distance himself from what Rochester calls 'the ape's mock face'.




Rochester; satire; ape; monkey; theriophily

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