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To the Moon: Discovering the Comic in the Cosmic on the Early Modern English Stage

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

Abstract

Ben Jonson (1572–1637), bricklayer, soldier, actor and poet, was also the first playwright to “discover” life on the moon. In his masque News from the New World Discovered in the Moon (1620), two Heralds proclaim that a poet who recently visited the Moon has found a new world: an “Earth inhabited,” replete with “new creatures,”2 aliens with hybrid identities who demonstrate characteristics of both male and female, human and animal. This new world, one Herald explains, contains the “Isle of the Epicoenes,” where “under one Article both kindes are signified, for they are fashioned alike, male and female the same” (ll. 275–78).3 And these androgynous Epicoenes have a unique trait: they reproduce by laying eggs (l. 285). From these eggs are born yet another Moon-species, the Volatees, a word coined by Jonson from the similar Latin word meaning flying or winged.4 It is an appropriate name given that the eggs reveal “a race of Creatures like men, but are indeed a sort of Fowle, in part covered with feathers” (286–88).

Keywords

Science Fiction Radical Alterity Extraterrestrial Life English Colonization Aristotelian Physic 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
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  2. 2.
    Ben Jonson, News from the New World Discovered in the Moon, in Ben Jonson, vol. VII, ed. C. H. Herford, Percy Simpson and Evelyn Simpson (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1941), 11. 128 and 126. References to this masque are by line numbers only. Google Scholar
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    Mary Baine Campbell, Wonder and Science: Imagining Worlds in Early Modern Europe (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1999), 115.Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Gabrielle Sugar 2016

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  • Gabrielle Sugar

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