Shakespeare, W - Much Ado About Nothing (Arden, 2006).pdf

And despite the use of the term actaeon to describe

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than a lack of it. And despite the use of the term 'Actaeon' to describe cuckolds, most Renaissance representations of cuckolds (with the exceptions of Falstaff, and the hunting chorus of As You Like It) involved not antlers but the bovine horn, as Much Ado's jokes about 'the savage bull' (1.1.242-3, 5.4.43) and the 'curst cow' (2.1.20-1) underscore (cattle, like cuckolds, were servile beasts of burden and endurance). This horn bears a resemblance to the crescent moon sported by Diana herself, so that the cuckold, fem- inized by his wife's usurpation of sexual initiative, literally bears the emblem of female mutability. The status of the cuckold's horn as both ludic and lucid is borne out by the uses of bovine horn in the period, as horn was known for its light-bearing and light-shedding properties; polished, it served as material for windows and lanterns (lant-horns) as well as hornbooks (alphabet primers in which the page bearing the let- ters was overlaid with a protective and transparent piece of horn). Crucially, this property of transparency only applies to bovine horn, not antler, which is opaque. 1 Horns are thus associated with visibility; they make the concupiscent conspicuous (see Fig. 6). 1 Rabelais supplements this material register by the mythic in Book 3 of Gargantua and Pantagruel, in which the quest of Panurge to find an answer to the question of whether, should he marry, he will be cuckolded, includes a dream vision (of his wife planting horns on his head), which he is advised to interpret according to whether the dream comes to him through the Gates of Ivory or the Gates of Horn. Whereas the former are misshapen and impenetrable, 'exactly the way you can't possibly see through ivory', the latter can be trusted, 'because [horn] is so diaphanous, so shining, and you can see them perfectly' (Gargantua, 2.68). The reference is to Book 19 of the Odyssey (probably the earliest site of the commonplace), where the chaste Penelope contemplates cuckolding Odysseus, and wonders aloud to a visiting stranger about a dream in which an eagle kills a flock of geese. When the (disguised) Odysseus assures her that it surely means that her husband will return and rout the suitors, she demurs that the authority of dreams depends on their gate: 'The dreams that pass through the gates of polished horn / are fraught with truth, for the dreamer who can see them' (19.637-8). 46
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Introduction 6 A seventeenth-century woodcut accompanying the ballad 'A Married Man's Miserie', which depicts the conspicuous plight of the cuckold. The figure on the right is winding a recheat (see 1.1.225). The cuckold wears the bovine horns (similar to those of his satyr-like rival) and seems to reside at the sign of the antler. These features help to explain some of the function of the cuck- old humour in this play, and reveal Shakespeare's preoccupation with the need for it not to be merely a matter of a recurrent locker- room gag. For while Shakespeare devotes many of the plot's twists and turns to questions of the enigmatic, also at work is the horror of
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