The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.2095 Wednesday, 15 November 2000.
Date: Tuesday, 14 Nov 2000 19:57:25 +0100
Subject: 11.2044 Re: Apes and Monkeys
Comment: Re: SHK 11.2044 Re: Apes and Monkeys
A delayed remark on the virginal monkey-business: In the English-German
critical edition of MUCH ADO (francke verlag), Norbert Greiner comments
that the phrase could also read "leading apes INTO hell" in the early
modern period. Drawing on H.W. Janson's APES AND APE LORE IN THE MIDDLE
AGES AND THE RENAISSANCE, he explains that the leading of apes was not
exclusively seen as a punishment but a well-known part of the
iconography of Dame Folly. As symbols of fornication (then and now),
apes can thus also stand for all those men that (cannot but) lead an
sexually immoral life ("play the ape" in my native tongue) because they
are turned down as husbands. Women, by refusing to marry, lead men to
the mentioned behaviour and hence into hell.
I find this reading quite convincing. As we all know, with the
Protestant reformation, marriage becomes, among other things, the
institution to avoid fornication (and hence hell). Married men (and
women) don't "lust", they "love" - or so the Puritan story goes.
I also wonder whether "hell" as one of the many expression for "vagina"
is a further clue, but maybe pursuing this line of association would
lead into hell too ...
University of Basel