“[T]he monkey duchess all undressed”

Simians, satire, and women in seventeenth-century England

Authored by: Holly Dugan

Routledge Companion to Women, Sex, and Gender in the Early British Colonial World

Print publication date:  October  2018
Online publication date:  October  2018

Print ISBN: 9781472479945
eBook ISBN: 9781315613772
Adobe ISBN:


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Andrew Marvell’s scathing mockery of Anne Monck, Duchess of Albemarle, in his Third Advice to a Painter (1667) defines her uncanny ability to mimic the tropes of aristocracy as decidedly simian: “Seest not the monkey duchess all undressed? Paint thou but her and she will paint the rest.” Stripped of her fancy clothes, Anne is more monkey than duchess, a point that Marvell uses to great advantage in crafting his satiric and political poem. Though it is easy to dismiss the image paranomasia (a clever, if misogynistic pun on her last name), Marvell’s depiction of Anne draws upon an extensive history of likening women to monkeys and monkeys to women across the seventeenth century. In this essay, I explore this trope, especially the material, political, and literary histories that provided the scaffolding for Marvell’s insult of Anne as the monkey duchess. In doing so, I argue for the use of gender as a category of analysis that is not bound by species.

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