The peacock (Greek taos, Latin pavo) is striking for its large colorful tail that opens erect like a fan; as it struts about in full display the bird seems inordinately proud. It is not mentioned often in Greek literature (they were imported into the Mediterranean region from India), but in Latin literature the bird is sacred to Juno and a byword for beauty and pride: ”the bird of Juno unfolds (explicat) its feathers” (Ovid, Amores 2.6.55). A list of superlatives in Metamorphoses includes ”prouder than peacocks” (13.801). Chaucer presents a character: ”as any pecok he was proud and gay” (Reeve’s Tale 3926); Spenser describes an image with ”More sondry colours than the proud Pavone / Beares in his boasted fan” (FQ 3.11.47). As doves or swans pull Venus’ chariot, ”Great Junoes golden chayre [is] . . . // Drawne of fayre Pecocks, that excell in pride, / And full of Argus eyes their tayles dispredden wide” (FQ 1.4.17). The story of Argus and how the peacock got its ”eyes” is found in Metamorphoses 1.625–723. The ”paycock” in Sean O’Casey’s well-known play Juno and the Paycock is the feckless, drunkard husband of ”Juno” Boyle; he ought to be Jupiter, perhaps, but instead he goes ”gallivantin’ about all the day like a paycock” (Act 1) while she tries to keep her family together.

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