Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Accommodated Animal

"Likewise to every beast of the earth and to every foule of the heaven,
and to every thing that moveth upon the earth, which hath life in it
selfe, every greene herbe shall be for meate."
Genesis 1:30

While the early Bible attentively noted the presence of other creatures in our world, they are never referred to by the English word "animal" in the Great Bible of 1539, the Geneva Bible of 1560 or the King James Version of 1611.

The widely used noun is likewise missing from almost all of Shakespeare's oeuvre, save eight instances, while the words "beast" and "creature" appear more than a hundred times and references to specific species are

"Exit, pursued by a bear."

The distinction is significant, according to professor Laurie Shannon, reflecting an important change in our relationship with the natural world and its non-human creatures, denying "animals" a place in the world that our thinking previously accommodated.
Cosmopolity in Shakespearean Locales
by Laurie Shannon
University Of Chicago Press, 2012