Internet Shakespeare Editions


... and breeding

From the Shepherd's Calendar. Reproduced in Social England, ed. H.D.Traill. University of Victoria Library.

Even in discussing the choice of cattle for breeding, the Renaissance sense of order prevailed, together with its assumptions about male and female roles:

Forasmuch as the male of all creatures are the principal in the breed and generation of things, and that the fruit which issueth from their seed, participateth most with their outward shapes, and inward qualities, I think fittest in this place, where I intend to treat of horned cattle and neat, to speak first of the choice of a fair bull, being the breeders principalest instrument of profit.

Now for the shape of your bull; he would be of a sharp and quick countenance, his horns the larger the better, his neck fleshy, his belly long and large, his forehead broad and curled, his eyes black and large, his ears rough within, and hair like velvet, his muzzle large and broad at the upper lip, but narrow and small at the nether, his nostril crooked within, yet wide and open, his dewlap extending from his nether lip down to his foreboothes [breast], large, side, thin and hairy, his breast rough and big, his shoulders large, broad and deep, his ribs broad and wide, his back straight and flat.

Spring and "a word of fear". . .*


  1. A word of fear

    [Spring] : When daisies pied and violets blue
    And lady-smocks all silver-white
    And cuckoo-buds of yellow hue
    Do paint the meadows with delight,
    The cuckoo then, on every tree,
    Mocks married men; for thus sings he,
    Cuckoo, cuckoo!" O word of fear*,
    Unpleasing to a married ear!

    When shepherds pipe on oaten straws,
    And merry larks are ploughmen's clocks,
    When turtles tread*, and rooks, and daws,
    And maidens bleach their summer smocks,
    The cuckoo then, on every tree,
    Mocks married men; for thus sings he,
    Cuckoo, cuckoo!" O word of fear,
    Unpleasing to a married ear!
    (Love's Labour's Lost, 5.2.892-908)

    "Fear" because the call of the cuckoo and its name remind the man of the possibility of cuckoldry.

    "Tread" is used in the sense of the action of birds mating.