Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Hostname: page-component-77c89778f8-n9wrp Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-07-18T11:36:16.771Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Stepping Out of Narrative Line: A Bit of Word, and Horse, Play in Venus and Adonis

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 March 2007

Peter Holland
Affiliation:
Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham
Get access

Summary

Imperiously he leaps, he neighs, he bounds,

And now his woven girths he breaks asunder;

The bearing earth with his hard hoof he wounds,

Whose hollow womb resounds like heaven’s thunder;

The iron bit he crusheth ’tween his teeth,

Controlling what he was controllèd with.

Picked out in bold type here is a piece or ‘bit’ of word-play in Shakespeare’s erotic narrative poem Venus and Adonis, which has not been noticed, or at least not recorded, and which has ramifications far and beyond its immediate context which I shall explore in what follows. Briefly, it consists in a verbal mimesis of the violence done by the horse to its ‘iron bit’, an image which thus acquires an emblematic metatextual significance as well as inter- and extra- textual significances. More precisely, the formation of ‘tween’ from between – a formation exemplary of poetic linguistic licence, as I shall indicate – is reactivated by a virtual homophone of the elided syllable or ‘bit’ before the verbal phrase ‘he crusheth. Releasing the polyvalency of the word bit this evokes at the same time its relation to the word bite, from which it is formed (again by elision), together with the relation of both to the body’s organs of articulation (‘tween his teeth’). Evoking these relations this bit of word-play makes them new, illustrating a poetics of recreative licence, a stepping out from narrative and syntactic linearity in a discursive equivalent to the intemperance of holiday, which, breaking with common or ordinary discourse, liberates and regenerates desire in a pleasurable re-creation of relations, especially of the word to the body.

Type
Chapter
Information
Shakespeare Survey
An Annual Survey of Shakespeare Studies and Production
, pp. 12 - 24
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2000

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×