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date: 04 March 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter uses the cuckold, the man whose wife is unfaithful, to explore connections between gender and the important theme of inversion in early modern popular culture. The cuckold reminds us that the social challenge of inversion was as much the result of the failure of superiors to govern properly as the misbehaviour of women and other subordinates. By examining popular practice in skimmingtons, libels, and insults, symbolic expressions of cuckoldry such as horns, and depictions of cuckolds in popular literary culture, including jestbooks proverbs, ballads, and theatre, this essay shows how cuckold humour was used to contain anxieties about disorder in early modern society. It also explores how inverted gender relationships were connected by early modern imaginations to political abuses and conflicts.

Keywords: Cuckolds, gender, family, disorder, popular culture, humour

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