Light of love
Light of love
In his Shakespeare talk, which is studded with countless
phrases from the bard's works, Stephen uses a term for a
sexually unfaithful woman from Much Ado about Nothing:
"light-of-love." He uses the phrase again in Circe,
where it also shows up in Bloom's mouth.
The OED traces "light of love" to early appearances that
declare it a cousin of the Elizabethan use of "light" to mean
"sexually inconstant." In Euphues (1579) John Lyly
uses it as an adjectival phrase: "Ah wretched wench, canst
thou be so lyght of love, as to chaunge with every
winde?" In Thomas Proctor's A Gorgeous Gallery of Gallant
Inventions (1578) it is a noun denoting loose
love: "The fickle are blamed: their lightilove
shamed." Later uses cited in the OED show that it could also
be a name for the loose women themselves, as in John
Fletcher's The Chances (1618): "Sure he has
encountered / Some light-o-love or other."
The phrase also became the title of an Elizabethan dance tune. (It was a "turkeylony," a form possibly derived from the tordiglione, a type of Italian galliard.) In the scene of Much Ado about Nothing in which Hero prepares for her wedding and Beatrice frets over her newfound love for Benedick, while Margaret needles both of them with sexual innuendo, this popular tune figures in the dialogue:
Hero. Why, how
now? Do you speak in the sick tune?
Beatrice. I am out of all other tune, methinks.
Margaret. Clap's into "Light a' love": that goes without a burden. Do
you sing it, and I'll dance it.
Beatrice. Ye light a' love with your heels! then if your husband have
stables enough, you'll see he shall lack no barns.
Margaret. O illegitimate construction! I scorn that with my heels.
A "burden" was the bass line in a song, and the word
acknowledges the heaviness of Beatrice's love-longing, but it
also echoes "the weight of a man" from several lines earlier.
"Light . . . with your heels" evokes "light-heeled," another
idiom for unchastity. "Barns" extends the theme of "stables,"
but also puns on "bairns" or children. "Illegitimate" refers
not only to faulty logic but also to the fruits of
promiscuity. The lush word play in these lines suggests that
the lyrics of this tune (now lost?) must have set lustful
thoughts racing through Elizabethan minds.
In Scylla and Charybdis Stephen imagines every
sexually adventurous "light-of-love" in London keeping
a copy of Venus and Adonis in her bedroom. In Circe
he thinks of Shakespeare,
Socrates, and Aristotle each dominated by his "light
of love." In the same chapter Bloom strangely addresses
the constable who is about to arrest him as both a Mason and
an inconstant lover: "No, no, worshipful master,
light of love. Mistaken identity."