ANIMALS & HORNS
Much comparison is made, particularly by Beatrice and Benedick when they are insulting each other, between people and various birds and animals. Benedick wishes his horse had the speed of Beatrice’s tongue, and she professes that the sound of a dog barking at a crow would actually be preferable to any oath of love from a man. There are also several references to farm animals: sheep, and cows, and bulls. Among them one notable extended metaphor where Benedick compares Claudio to a calf born of his father’s cow:
Bull Jove, sir, had an amiable low;
And some such strange bull leap'd your father's cow,
And got a calf in that same noble feat
Much like to you, for you have just his bleat.
Act 5, Scene 4
This is playful but also quite crude and graphic, and gives an insight into the way characters in this play talk and think about the couplings of humans in a similar way to the breeding habits of animals.
The very specific reference to the horns of a bull echoes throughout the play. This is of course a symbol of the ‘cuckold’; a man whose wife is unfaithful. Although it is often employed in a kind of good-hearted teasing, such as when Don Pedro compares Benedick to a savage bull bearing the yoke in Act 1 Scene 1, it reveals a preoccupation and paranoia with deception and infidelity which has much more serious repercussions elsewhere in the play.