Much Ado About Nothing

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The Savage Bull Symbol Analysis

The Savage Bull Symbol Icon
Don Pedro teases Benedick that “In time the savage bull doth bear the yoke.” This image acts as a symbol for marriage throughout the play. Just as the free and proud bull is broken and tamed by the farmer, the bachelor is tamed by responsibility when he becomes a married man. The bull’s horns are another part of the image: the cuckold—or man whose wife is cheating on him—was depicted as having horns sprouting from his head. Altogether, the image of the tamed bull suggests that marriage robs a man of his freedom, turns him into a beast of burden, and comes with a risk of cuckold-like shame. But the meaning of the image changes as the play goes on. In the fifth act, Claudio reassures Benedick that his horns will be “tipped with gold,” like those of Jove (Zeus), who transformed himself into a bull to seduce Europa. Just as Benedick’s view of marriage becomes more positive, so too does the image of the bull. The bull first symbolizes a humiliated beast of burden, but by the end becomes associated with the mythological sexual adventures of Zeus, King of the Gods.
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The Savage Bull Symbol Timeline in Much Ado About Nothing

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Savage Bull appears in Much Ado About Nothing. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 1
Love and Masquerade Theme Icon
Marriage, Shame and Freedom Theme Icon
...Benedick will someday fall in love himself, quoting the proverb that “In time the savage bull doth bear the yoke.” (1.1.260-261) Benedick wittily denies it, promising that if he ever gets... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 4
Love and Masquerade Theme Icon
Language, Perception and Reality Theme Icon
Marriage, Shame and Freedom Theme Icon
...nervous, teases him about becoming a married man, but promises that he shall have gold-tipped horns like Jove (Zeus). As Claudio prepares to marry the masked woman, presented to him as... (full context)
Love and Masquerade Theme Icon
Language, Perception and Reality Theme Icon
Marriage, Shame and Freedom Theme Icon
...favor of marriage, saying “there is no staff more reverend than the one tipped with horn.” (5.4.122-123) (full context)