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Matière animale : de chair et de sang

Shakespeare’s Animal Anatomy of Music

Katherine Cox

Résumés

Cet article analyse la façon dont Shakespeare dévoile et anime métaphoriquement la matière organique constitutive des instruments de musique de la Renaissance : peaux d’animaux, cornes, os, et même tripes. Shakespeare ne permet pas à son public d’ignorer le paradoxe qui existe entre l’anatomie bestiale et le caractère euphonique de la musique. En examinant la représentation de la musique dans la philosophie et la mythologie occidentales, cet essai explique que les sources antiques et médiévales se réfèrent aux animaux afin d'illustrer les hypothèses pythagoriciennes et platoniciennes sur la musique et son pouvoir universel. Shakespeare fait parfois écho à cette tradition, mais, plus souvent, il évoque les animaux et leur anatomie pour saper la valeur morale de la musique et suggérer les effets dégradants et affaiblissants qu’elle exerce sur les êtres humains. Nous porterons une attention particulière à Vénus et Adonis et Beaucoup de bruit pour rien, pièces dans lesquelles le mot horn (corne ou cor en français) renvoie à la fois aux registres de la chasse, de la séduction et de la musique. La corne révèle le glissement entre ces activités et les pulsions animales sous-jacentes à des rituels sociaux qu’en général nous attribuons spécifiquement à l’humanité.

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  • 1 William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, ed. M. M. Mahood, coll. The New Cambridge Shakespeare, (...)
  • 2 On the flexible boundaries between human nature and the nature of animals and plants during the Ren (...)

1Music, for Shakespeare and contemporaries, echoes the design of the universe. Revealing in its own numerical construction a parallel order in the cosmos, music is bound up in the framework of every natural thing and being. Lorenzo expresses this logic in The Merchant of Venice: “[a] man that hath no music in himself / [...] / is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils.”1 Lacking the musical sensitivity common to all people, animals, and even objects, an unmusical man is a defective and untrustworthy creature. Condemnation of the man generates questions about the animals in Lorenzo’s exemplum, the “youthful and unhandled colts” that become docile and calm when they hear sweet music (5.1.72). Are they superior to the immovable man? Or does their ability to appreciate music diminish its moral and intellectual value? Tensions such as these, lurking just below the surface in Lorenzo’s speech, arise from the appeal of music across the animal-human divide. In representing music, Shakespeare often imagines animals and their anatomy, drawing comparisons between seemingly disparate topics to underline ironies in his culture’s idea of music. Juxtaposing ideal notions of music with the banal facts of its production, including the anatomical matter incorporated in musical instruments, Shakespeare elucidates the paradoxical association of this divine art with the lowest creatures in the Great Chain of Being.2

  • 3 See Andrew Barker, “Harmonics,” in The Cambridge History of Science, Vol. 1, The Ancient World, ed. (...)
  • 4 References to Pythagoras as originating the idea of sphere-music and gifted with the ability to hea (...)
  • 5 Neoplatonists drew connections between macrocosmic and microcosmic music, i.e. the music of the sph (...)
  • 6 Although only his discussion on instrumental music is extant, Boethius’s views on human and cosmic (...)

2Elizabethans based their ideas about music on a tradition rooted in the Greek science of harmonics, the study of the numerical relationships that make up musical melody.3 The subject’s expositors claimed that Pythagoras discovered the simplest of these relationships (the ratios that correspond to musical intervals) and taught that the relative movements of the planets conform to musical proportions.4 No one except for Pythagoras could hear this sphere-music, but echoes of it were thought to exist on earth.5 According to Boethius, the greatest authority on music of the Middle Ages, the divine ratios of musical intervals govern not only the motion of the heavens, but also the operation of instruments and the relationship between the human body and the soul.6

  • 7 Finney, op. cit., p. x.
  • 8 Christopher Marsh, Music and Society in Early Modern England, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (...)
  • 9 Idem, p. 73-82. On the kinds of employment open to the early modern musician, see p. 107-172.

3That counterparts to sphere music were to be found in the sublunary world suggested a pleasing similitude between heaven and earth and ensured that harmonics was esteemed among the branches of philosophy. “The immutable in music drew man’s thoughts to God or made him one with all harmony.”7 But the practice of music making, a subject largely ignored by musical intellectualists like Boethius, evoked conflicting cultural attitudes that complicated representations of musical instruments and their performers. An impassioned debate over the moral value of music unfolded during the English Reformation and centered particularly on its suitability for use in religious worship.8 The shifting legal status and prosecution of minstrels in the sixteenth century, moreover, pushed many in the already marginalized profession into further disrepute. Although plenty of musicians found legitimate employment in private households, town waits, churches, and at gatherings such as weddings, for example, their unlicensed peers, common pipers and fiddlers, were often stereotyped as beggarly, drunken, and debauched.9

  • 10 Writers of laudes musicae who note the effect of music on animals include, for example, Aristides Q (...)

4Shakespeare’s association of music with animals and their anatomy reflects the era’s cultural ambivalence about instrumental music. When he employs zoological description to underscore the unexceptionable power of music over every creature, he follows the influential “praise of music” topos of the Western tradition, which alludes to the Orpheus myth and music’s capacity to pacify animals.10 Classical and medieval authors regarded music as a natural phenomenon as opposed to an artificial invention in part because of its effect on the lowest, irrational degree of creatures. Yet, many of Shakespeare’s allusions to animals serve to disparage music making. In such cases, animal references emphasize the carnal sound and appearance of musical instruments.

  • 11 The literature on the subject is piecemeal and often pertains only to specific animals. Background (...)

5Shakespeare’s animalized musical imagery does not always function as a commentary on the value of music. It also embellishes terms of abuse, for example, descriptions that dehumanize persons who appear to be used by others as if they were instruments. The interpretive portion of this essay addresses the ironic implications of joining the animal with the musical, a yoking together that underlines the universal power of music, but also, diminishment of personal agency and rationality. Because it conjures up divergent values and associations, animal musicality evokes the tensions embedded in courtship rituals between sexual impulse and social imperatives, for example, to obtain a lawful and respectable union. In the absence of a significant scholarship on the symbolism of animals as an audience and/or source of music in the early modern period, this essay draws on a variety of perspectives in music history, iconography, and mythography to bring insight to the association of animal bodies with musical instruments in Shakespearean drama and poetry.11

Instruments Among the Animals: Material Culture, Icons, and Myths

  • 12 See fn. 10.
  • 13 John Shakespeare, William’s father, was a glover and a whittawer (a craftsperson who dresses light- (...)
  • 14 For example, the typical lyre of ancient Greece has a tortoise shell body and arms made of antelope (...)
  • 15 s. v. “horn, n.,” 13.a., OED Online, Oxford, Oxford University Press, July 2018. 

6What are the connections between music and animals in Shakespeare’s milieu that serve as a basis for this thematic pairing in the poetry and plays? One reason for the relevance of animals to music has already been hinted at: classical encomia on music conventionally refer to the musical susceptibility of beasts.12 This tradition possibly accounts for instances in Shakespeare wherein animals reinforce an exultant notion of music, however, the majority of Shakespearean examples of animal musicality, if laudatory towards music at all, are not entirely so. A more flexible explanation that accommodates the ambiguities of animal-musical representation and chimes with Shakespeare’s upbringing as the son of leatherworker lies in the material components of musical instruments.13 Ever since instruments are known to have existed, hides, bones, and other animal parts have been used in their construction.14 In several cases, anatomical contributions seem to have influenced the naming of the instrument or one of its parts. For instance, the class of wind instruments known as horns—now typically constructed of brass, but originally made from converted animal horns—exemplifies the fundamental, semiotic relationship between animal parts and musical instruments.15 The age-old tradition of making instruments with animal products continues today, for example, in the use of horsehair for stringing violin bows.

  • 16 William Shakespeare, The Winter’s Tale, ed. John Pitcher, coll. The Arden Shakespeare, Third Series (...)
  • 17 A specimen of this description was held at the turn of the 20th century by the Metropolitan Museum (...)
  • 18 Campbell, Greated, and Myers, op. cit., p. 212; William Shakespeare, The Tempest, ed. Peter Holland (...)

7Animals were central to the craft of instrument making during the early modern period, and Shakespeare knew the fruits of this trade. The Clown in The Winter’s Tale, for example, mentions the English “hornpipe,” also known as the pibgorn: a reed instrument capped on either end with animal horn.16 A particularly sturdy example of the hornpipe might incorporate pieces of ox-horn and the shinbone of a deer.17 Animal skins are another essential component of early modern instruments. They serve as the “heads” of percussion instruments such as the tambourine (in England known as the timbrel) and the military drum. The tabor, a popular drum especially in the early part of the seventeenth century, appears memorably in The Tempest as part of a common pairing of instruments, the “tabor and pipe,” which Ariel plays to draw Caliban, Trinculo, and Stephano into Prospero’s custody.18

  • 19 Ian Woodfield, English Musicians in the Age of Exploration, Stuyvesant, NY, Pendragon Press, 1995, (...)
  • 20 The word catgut “distinctly means guts or intestines of the cat, though it is not known that these (...)
  • 21 William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet: Parallel Texts of Quarto 1 (1597) and Quarto 2 (1599), ed. J (...)
  • 22 William Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida, ed. David Bevington, revised ed., coll. The Arden Shakes (...)

8The lute, the most iconic of Renaissance instruments, can be classed with instruments that incorporate animal materials since it had strings of animal gut. The sheer demand for these strings in early modern England may be gauged by their rate of importation during in the 1560s. In a single 10-month period, 13,848 lute strings were brought into London.19 Strings for lutes and violins were typically spun from sheep or horse intestines, but they were sometimes called catgut or catling, implying an additional, though probably baseless, connection with the innards of cats.20 Shakespeare employs the word catling in Romeo and Juliet as a nickname for a musician.21 In Troilus and Cressida it constitutes a snipe about the probability of Ajax losing to Hector and his sinews ending up as strings of Apollo’s fiddle.22

  • 23 For the origins and description of the instrument, see Emmanuel Winternitz, Musical Instruments and (...)
  • 24 Winternitz, op. cit., p. 67.
  • 25 Ibid., p. 69.
  • 26 Ibid., p. 79-80.

9The instrument with the strongest animal overtones was perhaps the most prosaic and familiar of them all: the bagpipe. This ancient invention consists of a bag that inflates by means of a blowpipe, or sometimes bellows, and connects to one or more reed pipes.23 The windbag, which allows for steady airflow to the pipes, is made from the skin or bladder of a goat or sheep.24 Accustomed to keeping water in goatskin bags, herdsmen were possible inventors of the instrument.25 Because it so vividly evokes the life of shepherds, the musette, which is a smaller relative of the bagpipe, became the instrument par excellence of the French court during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries where the pastoral fashion loomed large.26

  • 27 The introduction of a drone to bagpipes, which probably occurred no earlier than 1300, possibly inf (...)
  • 28 See s. v. “drone, n. 2,” 3.a., “drone, v. 1,” and “drone, n. 1” in OED Online, Oxford, Oxford Unive (...)
  • 29 William Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part I, ed. Claire McEachern, coll. The Pelican Shakespeare, New Yor (...)

10But the rustic appearance of the windbag is not the only feature of the bagpipe that recalls the animal world. Central to its distinctive sound is the drone, a pipe that accompanies the melody with a continuous bass note.27 The name of the pipe refers to the action of producing a monotonous buzzing or humming noise—to drone. This verb derives from an older homonym, the English word for the male honey-bee.28 Drones are non-worker bees whose sole function is to mate with the queen-bee. Reminiscent of animal husbandry, of sheep and goats, and the proverbially laziest members of the hive, the bagpipe thus appears in Henry IV, Part I as a symbol of dishonorable masculinity. When Falstaff claims to be as “melancholy as a gib-cat or a lugged bear,” Hal retorts, “Or an old lion, or a lover’s lute” and Falstaff replies: “Yea, or the drone of a Lincolnshire bagpipe.”29 This series of comparisons begins with a list of animals symbolizing lust, paralysis, and dissipated strength and ends with two instruments—the lute and the bagpipe—that unify these attributes: Falstaff has the romantic aspirations of lute music and all the inertia and grotesque animalism of the bagpipe. Later in the play, he describes his corpulence through an image that recalls the anatomical materials of a bagpipe: “when I was about thy years, Hal, I was not an eagle’s talent in the waist; [...] A plague of sighing and grief! it blows a man up like a bladder” (2.4.317-320).

  • 30 See Clement Antrobus Harris, “Musical Animals in Ornament,” The Musical Quarterly 6.3 (1920), p. 41 (...)
  • 31 Ibid., p. 418.
  • 32 Ibid., p. 418-424.

11Instruments circulated alongside animals outside of conventionally musical contexts, for example, in the case of hunting, a practice that uses horns and bugles and involves animals in the capture and killing of other animals. The Shakespearean resonance of these signaling instruments will be considered in more detail later in the paper. Animal and musical subjects were sometimes paired in medieval art. Depictions of animals playing real and imaginary musical instruments, for example, occur in manuscripts, visual arts, and architecture of the Middle Ages.30 In a particularly early example of this iconographical tradition, a group of four musicians—two are animals and two mythical creatures—decorate a pillar dating to 1110 A.D. in the Canterbury cathedral.31 Across the pages of medieval prayer books and chronicles, and in carvings and artwork in European churches (see, for example, figure 1 below), pigs, boars, dogs, cats, hares, goats, rats, bears and monkeys are portrayed as playing instruments such as the bagpipe, harp, fiddle, dulcimer, and flute.32

Figure 1. Pig gargoyle playing bagpipe, Melrose Abbey, Melrose, Scotland.

Stone carving, late 14th century.

Gargoyle of a bagpipe-playing pig at Melrose Abbey, shot from the roof © User:The Land / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0. URL: https://upload.wikimedia.org/​wikipedia/​commons/​f/​f1/​Melrose_Abbey_10.JPG

  • 33 For Harris, the medieval “love of burlesque” accounts for the musical animal motif; ibid., p. 418.
  • 34 Sir John Graham Dalyell, Musical Memoirs of Scotland: With Historical Annotations and Numerous Illu (...)

12No compelling reasons of which I am aware have been proposed for the personification and depiction of animals as musicians.33 Yet the idea of music generated by living animals was sufficiently intriguing (and probably amusing) to medieval and early modern people that some went as far as training or provoking animals to produce harmonies by arranging them into choruses or caging them within organ-like instruments (see figure 2 below).34 Such musical curiosities and related ornamentation are significant as they reflect the appetite in pre-modern society for imagining animals either as a source of music or an emblem of the act of performing music.

Figure 2. Gaspar Schott, Magia universalis naturæ et artis..., vol. 2, Herbipoli, Sumptibus hæredum J.G. Schönwetteri, excudebat T. Hertz, 1657, p. 373, plate XXIV.

RB 476785, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.

13The two illustrations portray, respectively, a man exhibiting musical asses (“Asinorum Musicam polyphonam”); an instrument for playing feline-generated music.

  • 35 The stories of Pan and Syrinx and Pan’s music contest with Apollo appear in books 1 and 11 of Ovid’ (...)
  • 36 In book 6 of the Metamorphoses, Ovid briefly gives the history of this tragic character for whom th (...)
  • 37 Ovid’s seventeenth-century translator, George Sandys, explains the link between Minerva’s condemnat (...)
  • 38 I discuss this bias in Katherine Cox, “‘How cam’st thou speakable of mute’: Satanic Acoustics in Pa (...)
  • 39 Winternitz, op. cit., p.152.

14It is easier to account for the animalization of wind instruments as opposed to strings, because of their mythography. Reed instruments, for example, in Greek and Roman myths are associated with Pan, the half-goat deity and god of shepherds, flocks, and mountain wilds. In Arthur Golding’s translation of Metamorphoses, Pan invents the panpipe from the metamorphosed body of the nymph who becomes known as Syrinx and loses a musical competition to Apollo and his “viol.”35 Pan’s defeat closely echoes the story of Marsyas, a Phrygian musician who is sometimes depicted as a satyr and given animal features such as a horse or pig’s tail and pointed ears. Like Pan, he also challenges Apollo to a musical contest and loses; but this time the story ends tragically with the victorious god inflicting on Marsyas the punishment of flaying him alive.36 Marsyas’s grim fate is connected to his pipe, which Minerva rejects after discovering that playing it unpleasantly contorts the face.37 Collectively, these fables illustrate an ancient prejudice for the music of the kithara, a Greek instrument comparable with the harp, against that of the aulos, a double-mouthed pipe.38 In light of Apollo’s association with the intellect in Platonic philosophy, the virtues of temperance and reason were seen as the province of string music; wind instruments, on the other hand, represented the orgiastic, irrational domain of Dionysus.39

  • 40 “Skin and the Non-Human Human: Transformation and Reversal in Titian’s The Flaying Of Marsyas,” Bri (...)
  • 41 For example, King Midas prefers Pan’s music to Apollo’s; Golding, op. cit., p. 278, l. 181-182, 195
  • 42 For an account of the story, see Winternitz, op. cit., p. 150-151.
  • 43 All the inhabitants of the wood and Mount Olympus itself mourn for Marsyas; Golding, op. cit., p. 1 (...)
  • 44 Sandys, op. cit., loc. cit.

15The shared animal element of the myths deserves further examination. Pan, a goatish god, dominates the origin story of the panpipe, and Apollo’s other musical opponent is also partly animal, a fact which is on display in Renaissance paintings on the theme such as Titian’s Flaying of Marsyas (c. 1570-1576). Lilian Munk Rösing argues that Titian’s positioning of the victim—tied to a tree with his fur-covered legs pointed toward heaven and his head and human torso facing earthward—exposes the non-human core of the human subject.40 Turning the subject upside down also reveals that the hierarchy of divine and earthly music at issue in the Pan-Marsyas myths is neither clear-cut, nor completely resolved by the contests. On the surface, the competitions uphold the superiority of Apollo’s lyre, but the pipers also have supporters.41 The Muses, who judge the contest between Apollo and Marsyas, at first seem inclined toward the piped music. But Apollo ensures his victory by adding two challenges that are feasible for a string-player, but impossible to do with the aulos: inverting one’s instrument and playing it from the bottom end-up and accompanying oneself with singing.42 Nature’s response to Marsyas’s cruel slaying, which elicits an outpouring of grief, casts further doubt on whether the piper was not the more skillful of the two musicians.43 The myth thus poses the implicit question: does Apollo’s vengeance stem from jealousy of the mortal’s song? He viciously strips Marsyas’s hide, yet fails to erase the presence of animals from this musical fable. In mutilating Marsyas, the god of music resorts to brutal behavior; by the same token, the bestial song of Marsyas, in some versions of the myth, achieves immortality in the melody of the river that bears his name.44 Perhaps there is no moral dividing line between divine music and the kind of song that appeals to animal natures.

16There remains to discuss one final point about the panpipe. Pan’s musical invention compensates for the loss of a nymph who refuses to listen to his offer of marriage and seeks refuge from him in the shape of a reed. Deprived of the conquest he had hoped for, Pan must be content to possess the nymph in portable form. Fastening together the reeds into which her body changed, Pan devises an instrument that he can carry with him and responds predictably to the motions of his breath. As we turn now to Shakespeare to examine the motif of animal musicality in his works, it will be helpful to recall the role that the musical instrument plays in this particular myth. The instrument both emblematizes and repairs the loss of personal and sexual autonomy, which arguably is a cost of entering a binding social arrangement such as marriage.

Shakespeare’s Musical Creatures: Humane Beasts and Bestial Humans

17Based solely on Shakespeare’s earliest publication, one might speculate, correctly, that animals play an uncommonly important role in his writing. The highly amusing narrative poem Venus and Adonis (1593), in which the goddess of love strives unsuccessfully to seduce the young hero who later is killed by a boar, features a large supporting cast of animals: Adonis’s hounds, his male courser, a female jennet, the fatal boar, some crows, and a hare that Venus imagines being hunted by Adonis. A great deal has been said about the symbolism of the beasts and how they caricature the attitudes of the two protagonists. I am interested in the poem for how it illustrates the meanings and associations that Shakespeare assembles together in the image of the hunting horn.

  • 45 William Shakespeare, “Venus and Adonis,” Shakespeare’s Poems, eds. Katherine Duncan-Jones and H.R. (...)

18As I have suggested, this instrument is, by virtue of its name and original material, in a very literal sense, a part of the animal world. Venus and Adonis exploits this fact to illustrate the error of spurning a viable mate in favor of animal companionship. In repeatedly associating Adonis with the hunting horn, the text foreshadows his ill-fated intimacy with the boar’s “tusk” and implies, in the spirit of Shakespeare’s procreation sonnets, the danger of pursuing unfruitful pastimes and relationships.45 To hopeful ears, however, the sound of the horn is not a death-knell, but an invitation. It serves as a kind of aural cynosure for Venus who seeks always to know Adonis’s whereabouts. The call of the bugle stimulates an immediate emotional reaction: “at this word she hears a merry horn, / Whereat she leaps that was but late forlorn” (1025-1026). Even when the horn ceases to be heard, the noise of the dogs serves as an almost indistinguishable substitute:

She hearkens for his hounds and for his horn:
Anon she hears them chant it lustily,
And all in haste she coasteth to the cry. (
Venus and Adonis, 868-870)

  • 46 For the edition, see fn. 27. “[‘The Passionate Pilgrim’] 4, 6, and 9 are the strongest contenders f (...)

The lines conflate the dogs with the sounds they make. Together they “chant” like a choir and constitute a “cry,” a word that can mean either a pack of hunting dogs or, simply, yelping and barking. The ninth poem of The Passionate Pilgrim (1598-1599), one of a small group in that volume which Shakespeare may actually have written, sharpens the connection between the dogs and Adonis’s signature horn.46 Its phrase, “Adonis comes with horn and hounds,” demonstrates through alliteration that the hunter’s instrument and his dogs—his “horn and hounds”—make a very similar sound (5). Adonis’s hunting song reproduces the compelling animal music of the Pan-Marsyas myths. Distinctly unintellectual, this music appeals to the irrational and amorous instincts of the lower soul.

19Perhaps the most experienced hunter in Venus and Adonis is not the boy with his unruly horse and yelping hounds, but the mature goddess of love—mother of the famed archer Cupid. Her pursuit of Adonis is similar to his quest to kill the boar, although her aim is erotic, not violent. By juxtaposing two varieties of chase, the poem proposes that the animalism, aggression, and as I argue, the music of the hunt, all have their counterparts in the erotic context, that is, in the rituals that accompany the pursuit of sex. In making this point through the personification of love, the poet creates a comical scenario. The trick is that Love is a woman, she’s not the virgin huntress Diana, and therefore her athleticism seems, from an early modern standpoint, both obscene and absurd.

  • 47 Don Cameron Allen’s essay, “On Venus and Adonis,” in Elizabethan and Jacobean Studies Presented to (...)
  • 48 Loraine Fletcher, “Animal Rites: A Reading of Venus and Adonis,” Critical Survey 17.3, 2005, 1-17, (...)
  • 49 William Shakespeare, Henry V, ed. Andrew Gurr, updated edition, coll. The New Cambridge Shakespeare (...)

20The ambiguity of Adonis’s horn-music increases the irony of Venus’s position as a female pursuer and shows the gaping differences between the feminized game of love and the rough masculine world of the hunt.47 When the barking of the hounds replaces the sound of the “merry horn,” Venus’s hopes and passions do not abate. Her interpretation of the canine cry as an extension of the lover’s horn-music reflects what Loraine Fletcher sees as the poem’s emphasis on “an overlap between human and animal behaviors.”48 Although the blurring of this line promotes the anthropomorphic features of the animals, it also works in the opposite direction, depicting the hunter as lacking human softness or civility. Instead of gesturing towards concupiscence, the barking of the dogs accompanies a sport that centers on an act of domination, one animal overpowering another. In this respect, the horn-music of Adonis echoes the martial music that Henry V’s Dauphin hears in the galloping hoof of his horse: When I bestride him I soar, I am a hawk! He trots the air. The earth sings when he touches it. The basesthorn of his hoof is more musical than the pipe of Hermes.”49 Clearly this music begins and ends with the animal. It matters not that the instrument is still attached to the living creature. The song is largely solipsistic: intended to associate the male rider, who also compares himself to a “hawk,” with his glorious beast.

21Horns reappear at the most jarring moment of Venus and Adonis. Coming across Adonis’ gored body in the wood, Venus recoils “as the snail, whose tender horns being hit, / Shrinks backward in his shelly cave with pain” (1033-1034). Since the horns belong to an animal antithetical to the boar in every other respect, the analogy perfectly contrasts Venus’s loving intentions with the boar’s act of mutilation. But the stricken horns also portray Venus as a cuckold in the process of learning that his (her) worst fears are true; Adonis has died in the embrace of the boar instead of dying, in the sexual sense of the word, in Venus’s arms. The injury of the snail’s horns enacts the poem’s final, cruel determination against erotic possibility.

22Building on the animal connotations of wind music already implicit in classical myth, Venus and Adonis includes horns in its hunting allegory to negotiate between layers of meaning. Appertaining to hunting, cuckolds, and carnal music, the horn in Shakespeare’s usage, encapsulates the brutality and the emotional hazards of courtship. Wherever a wind instrument serenades lovers and fans their passions, it also potentially signals the maddening compromises, humiliation, and agony, of the human animal’s experience of love.

  • 50 For the significance of Ficino’s music-spirit theory see D.P. Walker, Spiritual and Demonic Magic: (...)

23Setting aside briefly the effect of animal music on the representation of courtship, I turn now to a related question: does the animal basis of music destabilize the notion that reason is the province of human beings? There are numerous illustrations in Shakespeare, as elsewhere in Renaissance literature and art, of music eliciting in its listeners an involuntary bodily response. Marsilio Ficino’s influential comparison between the aery substance of music and the body’s spirits informed a common view that music ravishes the soul and incapacitates all other functions of the sense.50 Two memorable references to the overpowering effects of music occur in The Merchant of Venice and The Tempest: Shylock’s answer to the Duke about his motivations for seeking Antonio’s flesh and Ariel’s account of how he uses music to manipulate the islanders. Both speakers allude to animals to demonstrate that music drives listeners to do things against their will. After describing men who are repelled by certain animals—those who “love not a gaping pig” and “[s]ome that are mad if they behold a cat”—Shylock compares himself to other men who “when the bagpipe sings i’the nose / Cannot contain their urine” (4.1.50, 47-48). Shylock’s point is that he cannot help but hate Antonio. Though his hatred is reasonless, it is nonetheless strong—almost like a muscle spasm. The second time he brings up the “gaping pig,” the “harmless necessary cat,” and the bagpipe, the resemblance between the animals and the musical instrument is strengthened—he now calls it a “woollen bagpipe” reflecting the fact that the leather skin of the bag still has wool attached to it (4.1.54-56). This allusion to sheepskin brings Antonio’s endangered skin sharply to mind. The animal materiality of the bagpipe and its droning sound capture the ambiguity Shakespeare wishes to raise about the things, the creatures, and the people we violently hate. Do objects of hate make intolerable noise or are they capable of making music—of moving us? Are they as morally expendable and easily eradicable as a stray cat or pig, or do they represent interiority and emotion?

24Shylock seems to indulge the cynical view that music overmasters us and renders us incapable of controlling our actions. This is certainly the effect of Ariel’s tabor on Caliban, Trinculo, and Stephano. Ariel recounts to Prospero how he strung them along:

  • 51 William Shakespeare, The Tempest, ed. Peter Holland, New York, Penguin, 1999, p. 67, l. 175-182. Al (...)

Then I beat my tabor;
At which like unbacked colts they pricked their ears,
Advanced their eyelids, lifted up their noses
As they smelt music. So I charmed their ears
That calflike they my lowing followed through
Toothed briers, sharp furzes, pricking gorse, and thorns,
Which entered their frail shins.
51

Ariel’s music animalizes and infantilizes the men into colts and calfs that follow wherever they are led. The charm he claims to have put on their ears recalls the magic of Circe, which turns men into docile beasts. Ariel’s “lowing”—the sound of a mother cow—is likened to siren music; it draws the men like shipwrecked sailors into the dense and entangling thicket.

25The ballad peddler and thief, Autolycus in the The Winter’s Tale, similarly conceives of music as a tool for subduing and disarming men. Marveling at the ease with which he distracts his victims from his thievery, he gloats:

  • 52 William Shakespeare, The Winter’s Tale, ed. John Pitcher, coll. The Arden Shakespeare, London, A & (...)

My clown, who wants but something to be a reasonable man, grew so in love with the wenches’ song that he would not stir his pettitoes till he had both tune and words, which so drew the rest of the herd to me that all their other senses stuck in ears. You might have pinched a placket, it was senseless. ’Twas nothing to geld a codpiece of a purse.52

As we might expect from a character named Autolycus, meaning “the wolf himself,” he refers to his customers collectively as a “herd.” But this word choice does more than identify them as prey. Comparing the crowd that gathers around him to sheep underscores the power of music to deprive listeners of their full humanity. Shakespeare follows the standard Renaissance explanation of musical rapture or ecstasy in suggesting that Autolycus’s songs narrow the individuals’ perceptual senses to the single function of hearing.

  • 53 William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing, ed. Sheldon P. Zitner, coll. The Oxford Shakespeare, O (...)

26If succumbing to the sound of music temporarily likens humans to beasts by limiting their use of reason and replacing will with reflex, a worse fate may be personifying a musical instrument itself, as this permanently and substantively identifies the individual with animal materiality. We see a variety of comparisons between characters and instruments throughout Shakespeare’s plays, for example, in Henry IV, Part 1 and Hamlet. Much Ado About Nothing dwells particularly on the instrumental and animal attributes of human beings possibly because the play, hearkening to Venus and Adonis, analogizes the courtship activities of its young protagonists to the sport of hunting. At the beginning of the play, Claudio and Benedick arrive in Messina fresh from a military campaign that Beatrice likens to a hunt when she asks the messenger how many men Benedick has “killed and eaten.”53 The play goes on to depict the progress of the men from bachelorhood towards married life through musical imagery that evokes multiple meanings of the concept of the hunt.

  • 54 Godfrey Goodman describes the incapacitating effect of musical ecstasy on normal bodily function: “ (...)

27Not surprisingly, the hunting horn plays a central role in the musical characterization of the men. Claudio’s teasing prediction that if Benedick should ever marry, he “wouldst be horn-mad,” illustrates why musical puns on “horn” go hand-in-hand with cuckold jokes (1.1.258-9). Madness, or wild excitement, is perceived as a common symptom both of musical ecstasy and the experience of being in love; one is “horn-mad” if one is titillated by either music or sexual passion.54 By the same token, betrayal in romantic relationships engenders another kind of madness: the fury, shame, and sickness of the cuckold.

28The dual musical and social symbolism of the horn with its damning implications of cuckoldry and loss of control, captures the double bind of the lover who is powerless to resist his own inevitable social mortification. Personifying the horn is therefore the ultimate sign of resigning to this self-inflicted abuse. Benedick’s vow to avoid marriage, lest he have “a recheat winded in my forehead” or be forced to “hang my bugle in an invisible baldric,” reveals that instrumentality is at the core of his fear (1.1.232-234). Employing the word “recheat” as a metonym for the instrument that produces this hunting call, Benedick imagines himself as embodying a combination of horned figures: a hunter with a bugle, the hunted prey, and a personified instrument whereby his infamy may be blasted from his own forehead. Remarks about Benedick as he succumbs to love, that “his jesting spirit [...] is now crept into a lute-string, and now governed by stops” and “[h]e hath a heart as sound as a bell, and his tongue is the clapper,” show that he begins to be perceived according to his own parody of the married man, that is, as the embodiment of a musical instrument (3.2.12, 55-56). We are reminded by Benedick’s descent into animal instrumentalism of the horned figure of Pan, the would-be spouse of Syrinx. Benedick’s desire for romantic attachment, like Pan’s, ends in personal disenfranchisement expressed through the figure of musical conformity (he is now “governed by stops” and Beatrice’s speech is confined to a “sick tune” [3.4.40]). Much like the god’s identification with the panpipe, Benedick assumes the attributes of a bugle and a lute.

  • 55 Brent Nelson, “Faith and Sheep’s Guts in Much Ado About Nothing,” Shakespeare, 12.2, 2016, 161-174, (...)

29Watching Benedick fall in love is immensely satisfying, in part, because of his previous outspokenness about the foolishness of doing so. His comments on music allude metaphorically to his initial disdain for marriage and doubts about its appeal: “is it not strange that sheep’s guts should hale souls out of men’s bodies?” (2.3.59-61). A Latin pun in these lines on “fidēs, -is (a gut-string for a musical instrument) and fides, -ēī (faith, loyalty),” Brent Nelsen argues, expresses skepticism towards the notion of fidelity in love and ties this question to a series of deceptions in the play framed by musical diction.55 Yet there is more to the image than its play on words. The paradoxical derivation of music and its miraculous effects from crude animal materials serves as a conceit for the arbitrary power of sexual attraction over a human soul. The conceit is not particularly auspicious for the lovers in the play. Because it reverses the roles between master and animal, flexing the power of animal anatomy over the souls of human beings, instrumental music according to Shakespeare assuages but also a mortifies the human condition. Benedick’s heart is still free enough at this point in the play to resist the music of sheep’s guts. But his discretion is short lived. Concluding to himself, “Well, a horn for my money, when all’s done” (2.3.61-62) sets him marching to an intoxicating tune in reckless pursuit of love.

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Notes

1 William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, ed. M. M. Mahood, coll. The New Cambridge Shakespeare, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2003, p. 170, 5.1.83-85. Hereafter this edition will be cited in the text by act, scene, and line number.

2 On the flexible boundaries between human nature and the nature of animals and plants during the Renaissance, see Tom McFaul, Shakespeare and the Natural World, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2015, p. 19-26.

3 See Andrew Barker, “Harmonics,” in The Cambridge History of Science, Vol. 1, The Ancient World, ed. Alexander Jones and Liba Taub, coll. The Cambridge History of Science, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2018, p. 428-448.

4 References to Pythagoras as originating the idea of sphere-music and gifted with the ability to hear it are common in classical topoi on music; see James Hutton, “Some English Poems in Praise of Music,” English Miscellany 2, p. 1-63, Rpt. in Music and the Renaissance: Renaissance, Reformation and Counter-Reformation, ed. Philippe Vendrix, Farnham, England, Ashgate, 2011, 145-207, p. 151, 154-155.

5 Neoplatonists drew connections between macrocosmic and microcosmic music, i.e. the music of the spheres and that of the human soul; ibid., p. 154. On the musical instrument as a common image for both the universe and the human body, see Gretchen Ludke Finney, Musical Backgrounds for English Literature: 1580-1650, New Brunswick, NJ, Rutgers University Press, [1962], p. 1-20.

6 Although only his discussion on instrumental music is extant, Boethius’s views on human and cosmic music may be extrapolated; see Henry Chadwick, Boethius: The Consolations of Music, Logic, Theology, and Philosophy, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1990, p. 82-83.

7 Finney, op. cit., p. x.

8 Christopher Marsh, Music and Society in Early Modern England, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010, p. 50-51, 56-57, and 59-64.

9 Idem, p. 73-82. On the kinds of employment open to the early modern musician, see p. 107-172.

10 Writers of laudes musicae who note the effect of music on animals include, for example, Aristides Quintilianus (3rd century?), Macrobius (5th century), Joannes de Muris (14th century), and Shakespeare’s contemporary Samuel Rowley in the play When You See Me, You Know Me (1605). For more on these authors and the “Praise of Music” tradition, see Hutton, op. cit., p. 145-207.

11 The literature on the subject is piecemeal and often pertains only to specific animals. Background on the origins of the idea of sympathy between animals and music may be found in studies of the Orpheus myth. See, for example, Vladimir L. Marchenkov, The Orpheus Myth and the Powers of Music, Hillsdale, New York, Pendragon Press, 2009, p. 4-5.

12 See fn. 10.

13 John Shakespeare, William’s father, was a glover and a whittawer (a craftsperson who dresses light-colored leather); Peter Holland (10 January 2013), “Shakespeare, William (1564–1616), playwright and poet,” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, last accessed (via oxforddnb.com) 24 April 2019.

14 For example, the typical lyre of ancient Greece has a tortoise shell body and arms made of antelope horns. See Murray Campbell, Clive Greated, and Arnold Myers, Musical Instruments: History, Technology, and Performance of Instruments of Western Music, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2004, p. 284.

15 s. v. “horn, n.,” 13.a., OED Online, Oxford, Oxford University Press, July 2018. 

16 William Shakespeare, The Winter’s Tale, ed. John Pitcher, coll. The Arden Shakespeare, Third Series, London, A & C Black Publishers, 2010, p. 254, 4.3.44. Hereafter, I will use quotations from this edition, citing them in the text by act, scene, and line number.

17 A specimen of this description was held at the turn of the 20th century by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. See George W. Andrews, ed., Musical Instruments, coll. The American History and Encyclopedia of Music, Toledo, Irving Squire, 1908, p. 60.

18 Campbell, Greated, and Myers, op. cit., p. 212; William Shakespeare, The Tempest, ed. Peter Holland, coll. The Pelican Shakespeare, New York, Penguin Group, 1999, p. 54 (stage directions). Hereafter, I will use quotations from this edition, citing them in the text by act, scene, and line number.

19 Ian Woodfield, English Musicians in the Age of Exploration, Stuyvesant, NY, Pendragon Press, 1995, p. 75, qtd. in Marsh, op. cit., p. 21. Artisans also used gut-strings to make tennis racquets and clothes. See Jacques Savary des Bruslons, Dictionnaire universel de commerce: contenant tout ce qui concerne le commerce qui se fait dans les quatre parties du monde ..., Tome 1, Paris, Chez la Veuve Estienne, 1742, p. 1091, (accessible online at: https://books.google.com/books?id=mHRdAAAAcAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false, last accessed 28 September 2019).

20 The word catgut “distinctly means guts or intestines of the cat, though it is not known that these were ever used for the purpose”; see s. v. “catgut, n.,” 1., OED Online, Oxford, Oxford University Press, March 2019. See also s. v. “gut, n.,” 4.c., and “catling, n.,” 2.a, ibid.

21 William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet: Parallel Texts of Quarto 1 (1597) and Quarto 2 (1599), ed. Jay L. Halio, Newark, NJ, University of Delaware Press, 2008, p. 102, 4.5.132.

22 William Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida, ed. David Bevington, revised ed., coll. The Arden Shakespeare, Third Series, London, Bloomsbury, 2015, p. 284, 3.3.305.

23 For the origins and description of the instrument, see Emmanuel Winternitz, Musical Instruments and Their Symbolism in Western Art, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1979, p. 66-69. Curtis Sachs, The History of Musical Instruments, 1st ed., New York, W.W. Norton & Company, 1940, p. 141, 154, 281, suggests the bagpipe was possibly brought to Greece and Rome from South Asia.

24 Winternitz, op. cit., p. 67.

25 Ibid., p. 69.

26 Ibid., p. 79-80.

27 The introduction of a drone to bagpipes, which probably occurred no earlier than 1300, possibly influenced the development of polyphonic music. Ibid., p. 69-71.

28 See s. v. “drone, n. 2,” 3.a., “drone, v. 1,” and “drone, n. 1” in OED Online, Oxford, Oxford University Press, March 2019.

29 William Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part I, ed. Claire McEachern, coll. The Pelican Shakespeare, New York, Penguin, 2000, p. 10, 1.2.73-76. Hereafter, I will use quotations from this edition, citing them in the text by act, scene, and line number.

30 See Clement Antrobus Harris, “Musical Animals in Ornament,” The Musical Quarterly 6.3 (1920), p. 417-425.

31 Ibid., p. 418.

32 Ibid., p. 418-424.

33 For Harris, the medieval “love of burlesque” accounts for the musical animal motif; ibid., p. 418.

34 Sir John Graham Dalyell, Musical Memoirs of Scotland: With Historical Annotations and Numerous Illustrative Plates, Edinburgh, Thomas G. Stevenson, 1849, cites several early accounts of such performances, for example, music from a “consort of hogges” and a pageant featuring a bear organist playing on a “score of cats” (p. 70-75).

35 The stories of Pan and Syrinx and Pan’s music contest with Apollo appear in books 1 and 11 of Ovid’s Metamorphoses: The Arthur Golding Translation, 1567, ed. John Frederick Nims, New York, The Macmillan Company, 1965, p. 27, l.858-887, p. 278, l.171-193.

36 In book 6 of the Metamorphoses, Ovid briefly gives the history of this tragic character for whom the nymphs and creatures of the surrounding wood shed copious tears thus forming a river called the Marsias; ibid.., p.149, l.488-510.

37 Ovid’s seventeenth-century translator, George Sandys, explains the link between Minerva’s condemnation of the wind instrument and Apollo’s defeat of the piper Marsyas; see Ovid’s Metamorphosis, Englished, Mythologized, and Represented in Figures, ed. Karl K. Hulley and Stanley T. Vandersall, Lincoln, NE, University of Nebraska Press, 1970, p. 295-296.

38 I discuss this bias in Katherine Cox, “‘How cam’st thou speakable of mute’: Satanic Acoustics in Paradise Lost,” Milton Studies, 57 (2016), 233-260, p.240-241n30.

39 Winternitz, op. cit., p.152.

40 “Skin and the Non-Human Human: Transformation and Reversal in Titian’s The Flaying Of Marsyas,” British Journal of Psychotherapy 29.1 (2013), p. 98-109, 104-105.

41 For example, King Midas prefers Pan’s music to Apollo’s; Golding, op. cit., p. 278, l. 181-182, 195.

42 For an account of the story, see Winternitz, op. cit., p. 150-151.

43 All the inhabitants of the wood and Mount Olympus itself mourn for Marsyas; Golding, op. cit., p. 149, l.499-506.

44 Sandys, op. cit., loc. cit.

45 William Shakespeare, “Venus and Adonis,” Shakespeare’s Poems, eds. Katherine Duncan-Jones and H.R. Woudhuysen, coll. The Arden Shakespeare, Third Series, London, Thompson Learning, 2007, p. 223, l. 1116. All subsequent quotations from this poem and The Passionate Pilgrim are from this edition and hereafter are cited in the text by line number.

46 For the edition, see fn. 27. “[‘The Passionate Pilgrim’] 4, 6, and 9 are the strongest contenders for Shakespeare’s own authorship”; Duncan-Jones and Woudhuysen, eds., “Introduction,” op. cit., p. 87.

47 Don Cameron Allen’s essay, “On Venus and Adonis,” in Elizabethan and Jacobean Studies Presented to Frank Percy Wilson, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1959, 100-111, p. 100-105 establishes the influential the idea that the two protagonists participate in disparate romantic and fatalistic versions of the hunt, the poem’s unifying theme. Venus embodies love’s hunt, and, by attempting to persuade Adonis to pursue the hare—a symbol associated with generative love—she invites him to abandon his quest for death symbolized by the boar.

48 Loraine Fletcher, “Animal Rites: A Reading of Venus and Adonis,” Critical Survey 17.3, 2005, 1-17, p. 3.

49 William Shakespeare, Henry V, ed. Andrew Gurr, updated edition, coll. The New Cambridge Shakespeare, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2005, p.150, 3.8.14-16.

50 For the significance of Ficino’s music-spirit theory see D.P. Walker, Spiritual and Demonic Magic: From Ficino to Campanella, London, The Warburg Institute, University of London, 1958, p. 8-10.

51 William Shakespeare, The Tempest, ed. Peter Holland, New York, Penguin, 1999, p. 67, l. 175-182. All subsequent quotations from this play are from this edition and hereafter are cited in the text by act, scene, and line number.

52 William Shakespeare, The Winter’s Tale, ed. John Pitcher, coll. The Arden Shakespeare, London, A & C Black Publishers, 2010, p. 297, 4.4.609-615.

53 William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing, ed. Sheldon P. Zitner, coll. The Oxford Shakespeare, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2008, p. 98, 1.1.41. All subsequent quotations from this play are from this edition and hereafter are cited in the text by act, scene, and line number.

54 Godfrey Goodman describes the incapacitating effect of musical ecstasy on normal bodily function: “there is an extasis of the soule, wherein she is carried in a trance...while the body lies dead like a carkasse, without breath, sense, motion, or nourishment”; The Fall of Man, London, 1616, p. 42 qtd. in Finney, op. cit., p. 49.

55 Brent Nelson, “Faith and Sheep’s Guts in Much Ado About Nothing,” Shakespeare, 12.2, 2016, 161-174, p. 162.

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Katherine Cox, « Shakespeare’s Animal Anatomy of Music », Actes des congrès de la Société française Shakespeare [En ligne], 38 | 2020, mis en ligne le 10 janvier 2020, consulté le 08 août 2020. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/shakespeare/5126 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/shakespeare.5126

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Katherine Cox

University of Miami

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