The Monstrous Womb

  • Amy Kenny
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Literature, Science and Medicine book series (PLSM)


The womb wielded a constant threat during pregnancy because of its excessive lust, maternal imagination, and overactive role in gestation. Early modern medicine is full of salacious tales about pregnant women physically imprinting their children simply through the maternal imagination, which lead to fears over monstrous births. King John and The Winter’s Tale are full of remarks about potential monstrosity occurring during pregnancy, and this chapter explores how these masculine fears of the womb’s perceived contamination are proven inadequate and unnecessary in both plays. Shakespeare continuously exonerates the womb as a fertile, generative space equipped with a positively connotated influence, which in turn, critiques characters who act as a mouthpiece for contemporary medical views on the dangerous impact of the womb during pregnancy.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Amy Kenny
    • 1
  1. 1.University of CaliforniaRiversideUSA

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