1st Edition

Cuckoldry, Impotence and Adultery in Europe (15th-17th century)

Edited By Sara F. Matthews-Grieco Copyright 2014
    326 Pages
    by Routledge

    326 Pages
    by Routledge

    In Renaissance and early modern Europe, various constellations of phenomena-ranging from sex scandals to legal debates to flurries of satirical prints-collectively demonstrate, at different times and places, an increased concern with cuckoldry, impotence and adultery. This concern emerges in unusual events (such as scatological rituals of house-scorning), appears in neglected sources (such as drawings by Swiss mercenary soldier-artists), and engages innovative areas of inquiry (such as the intersection between medical theory and Renaissance comedy). Interdisciplinary analytical tools are here deployed to scrutinize court scandals and decipher archival documents. Household recipes, popular literary works and a variety of visual media are examined in the light of contemporary sexual culture and contextualized with reference to current social and political issues. The essays in this volume reveal the central importance of sexuality and sexual metaphor for our understanding of European history, politics and culture, and emphasize the extent to which erotic presuppositions underpinned the early modern world.

    Contents: Introduction: Sexual Transgression as Social Metaphor, Sara F. Matthews-Grieco. Part I Defamed Buildings and Shamed Bodies: Adultery, cuckoldry and house-scorning in Florence: the case of Bianca Cappello, Jacqueline Marie Musacchio; Vincenzo Gonzaga and the body politic: impotence and virility at court, Molly Bourne; Historical and literary contexts for the Skimmington: impotence and Samuel Butler’s Hudibras, M. A. Katritzky. Part II Impotence, Magic and Medicine: Impotence, witchcraft, and politics: a Renaissance case, Matteo Duni; The satyr in the kitchen pantry, Laura Giannetti; Impotence and corruption: sexual function and dysfunction in the early modern Italian Books of Secrets, Meredith K. Ray. Part III Horns and Visual Innuendo: ‘Divine cuckolds’: Joseph and Vulcan in Renaissance art and literature, Francesca Alberti; Niklaus Manuel and Urs Graf: cuckolds, impotence and sex workers in Swiss Renaissance art (c.1510-1517), Christiane Andersson; The cuckoldries of Baccio del Bianco, Louise Rice; Picart’s browbeaten husbands in 17th-century France: cuckoldry in context, Sara F. Matthews-Grieco. Index.


    Sara F. Matthews-Grieco is Professor of History and Coordinator of Women's & Gender Studies at Syracuse University in Florence, Italy. She is also the editor of Erotic Cultures of Renaissance Italy.

    "This volume convincingly argues that historical studies have long reflected the double standard by which women are primarily blamed for adultery, while little scholarly attention has been paid to the male side of the coin. For the first time a team of historians, art historians and scholars of drama and literature investigate this ubiquitous aspect of the erotic cultures of the past by close reading of a wide and imaginative range of sources and contexts, including iconography. By so doing, contributors shed new light on a variety of diverse topics such as Renaissance comedy, medical empiricism, military culture and dynastic history. The book, which fills quite a curious gap, is highly recommended to scholars of Renaissance and early modern European society, of gender and the body, of sexual mores, and of imagery and stereotypes in the longue durée."

    - Alessandro Arcangeli, Universita di Verona, Italy

    "This interdisciplinary collection of relatively brief essays proposes to redress what the editor asserts has been an imbalance of scholarly focus on female adultery at the expense of cuckoldry. The collection is weighted toward Renaissance Italian case studies (seven essays), but also features chapters on England, Switzerland, and France, and authors engage with secondary and primary sources from wider early modern Europe. ... Chapters also refer to each other directly where relevant, which suggests good editorial direction and increases the sense of coherence across the volume."

    - H-Net Reviews