Spenser’s ‘apish crue’: Aping in Prosopopoia or Mother Hubberds Tale

Shinn, Abigail. 2024. Spenser’s ‘apish crue’: Aping in Prosopopoia or Mother Hubberds Tale. In: Rachel Stenner and Abigail Shinn, eds. Edmund Spenser and Animal Life. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave, pp. 117-138. ISBN 9783031426407 [Book Section]

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Abstract or Description

This chapter explores the hinge between prosopopoeia and aping in Mother Hubberds Tale (1591) by focusing on the phenomenon of the performing ape.

This reading of Mother Hubberds Tale focuses on the Ape and his debt to the performing apes of the playhouse and baiting arena. The chapter outlines the history of the performing ape and its relationship to mimetic theory before considering the relationship between the speaking and embodied animal in the poem. I then analyse the Ape’s behaviour, emphasising the contortions involved in his two-footedness, dancing and gaming, and his adoption of elaborate costume. I end with a discussion of the role of pain in shaping the poem’s exploration of animal personation and how it references anxieties about censorship. Throughout, I argue that Spenser’s interrogation of the rhetorical figure of personation uses the animal to question modes of performativity in relation to social status, satirising the Elizabethan court but also asking wider questions about the links between prosopopoeia, the production of poetry and violence.

Item Type:

Book Section

Identification Number (DOI):



Mother Hubberds Tale; prosopopoeia; apes; theatre; baiting; pain; censorship

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

English and Comparative Literature


21 February 2024Published

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

26 Feb 2024 10:38

Last Modified:

26 Feb 2024 15:06



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