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bear by san

March 2017



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bear by san

Unanswerable Question For The Universe (August 4, 2003):

If Shakespeare is making cunnilingus jokes in The Taming Of The Shrew, can I assume that oral sex is a common period behavior?


You know, I sometimes suspect that they'd have much more success teaching this stuff to teenagers if they just stopped trying to hide all the dirty jokes in it.


Come, come, you wasp; i' faith, you are too angry.

If I be waspish, best beware my sting.

My remedy is then, to pluck it out.

Ay, if the fool could find it where it lies,

Who knows not where a wasp does
wear his sting? In his tail.

In his tongue.

Whose tongue?

Yours, if you talk of tails: and so farewell.

What, with my tongue in your tail? nay, come again,
Good Kate; I am a gentleman.



Who knew Shakespeare wrote horror?



Re: Cunnilingus?

Here you go, Ken.

This one's for you:

His body was as straight as Circe's wand,
Jove might have sipt out Nectar from his hand.
Even as delicious meat is to the taste,
So was his neck in touching, and surpassed
The white of Pelops shoulder. I could tell ye,
How smooth his breast was, and how white his belly,
And whose immortal fingars did imprint,
That heavenly path, with many a curious dint,
That runs along his back, but my rude pen,
Can hardly blazon forth the loves of men,
Much less of powerful gods.

--Christopher Marlowe, "Hero & Leander"

Yeah, Kit was thinking with his pen, all right. *g*


Re: Cunnilingus?

Horror? *grins* Not if it's done right. So pppppppptfh to you.

Jaime (who loves you even if you don't recognize the finer things in life)
You know, I sometimes suspect that they'd have much more success teaching this stuff to teenagers if they just stopped trying to hide all the dirty jokes in it.

I quite agree! I remember that the version of _Romeo and Juliet_ that was actually in our 9th grade English textbook had a lot of sections removed, and although we read from a complete _Hamlet_ in 11th, we were only assigned certain portions. Meh.

Well, I stand by my assessment of Will and Kit as the Beavis and Butthead of the 16th century. I'm learning things reading this stuff.
I had no idea schools did that kind of thing... For us, every year except grade 11 (which was "Canadian Literature year") had a full Shakespeare play. Taming of the Shrew was grade 9, complete with tongues in tails. Some classes, when we did MacBeth in grade 12, saw the Roman Polanski version where the three witches were young naked women. Our teacher explained the joke behind the "It's all Greek to me" comment in Julius Caesar...

I'm actually quite disturbed to learn that there are people claiming to teach Shakespeare while cutting out the dirty jokes...
The advantages of a liberal private school. We got our Shakespeare, our Chaucer, and our classical and comparative mythology with all the naughty bits left in. The teachers were entirely unafraid of the subject. Sometimes the students blushed.

We also had nude models for life drawing classes.

Tisk, tisk

Such subjects to be discussing in an open forum! ::grin::

I'm back, as Arnold would say. But typically, my e-mail's down. So I can't check my 8 days worth of e-mail. Argh! I could kill someone!

Oh well, hope you had a good time without me, and maybe if I get e-mail before days end (and time to check!) I'll see what you've been posting while I've been gone.


Re: Tisk, tisk

eee, wicked email.

I just pulled everything to do a refit. Not sure when I'll start posting again....

Re: Tisk, tisk

Really? I missed the last few posts, damn!

Oh well, e-mail's still down anyway and internet's spotty so I'm relieved in a way.

And is the ever going EBear actually not in a hurry to meet a posting deadline? Well, wonders never ceasing and all that...::grin::
Hey, he made oral sex jokes in As You Like It too:

Act III Scene II
Rosalind:"I prithee, take the cork out of thy mouth that I may drink thy tidings."
Celia:"So you may put a man in your belly?"

And that doesn't get into all the gags about Ganymede and cuckoldry (any time somebody mentions horns) in AYLI.

Face it, Shakespeare could be quite bawdy and raunchy, and he was expecting his audience to pick up on those jokes.


As You Like It is actually one of my primary source texts for The Stratford Man.

And yeah, our boy Will was a dirty, dirty boy. *g* One of the reasons I love the Elizabethans so much is that bawdiness... which is a kind of joyous bawdiness you just don't get any more after the Puritans.

Re: Heee.

I am incredibly ticked off that Miramax didn't do a better job at promoting Branagh's Love's Labour's Lost (which I for one, loved). Because its failure forced him to go back to acting in other people's mainstream flicks for a while, shelving some of his other planned Shakespeare adaptations, including a version of As You Like It to be set in modern Japan. He's apparently said that it may be delayed a decade or more...

Re: Heee.

I have that poster in my den. *g*

Othello, sadly, I don't have. But it's my favourite Branagh Shakespeare.



Also my general perception. The Elizabethans actually had a pretty well-developed concept of a woman's desire for sexual pleasure (I refer you to some bawdy bits in Nashe and Marlowe, as well as period medical texts), especially compared to the Puritans and Victorians.

It was also a bit healthier than the medieval idea of the woman-as-carnal-vessel-who-must-be-controlled.

All in all, a flowering society. *g*

Re: *nod*

Well, as long as they're corrupting the right people...
Interesting questions. Some historians claim oral sex was rare until developments in personal hygiene, specifically the bidet, became more common (in Europe, though probably not in the UK, during the C17th), but this is a somewhat dubious argument. However (though the Early Modern is Not My Period) there have been several studies based on church 'bawdy court' records and similar material, and my extremely vague recollection from looking at these is that oral sex did not feature prominently: lots of fondling and fumbling and flashing, but no oral. (Some of the early C18th stuff on molly-houses and sodomy trials might say something about male-male oral sex.) But there does seem to be a difference between actual behaviour and talking about it: as some prim Victorian critic had it, there were all these nice respectable chaste heroines in Shakespeare, talking bawdy in ways that the average Victorian sailor would have blushed at.
Well, really. That's what you get for teaching Ovid in grammar school....
Hear hear! Something needs to be done about the way they teach Shakespeare in high school, anyway.

But yes, good ol' Will was quite the master of the innuendo and very often outright in your face 'this is a dirty joke'. May I recommend a book called Naughty Shakespeare by Michael Macrone? Very helpful at getting to the 'root' of some of those hidden things.

Thanks for the recommendation!
(1) a more explicit Shakespearean oral sex joke occurs in Hamlet: "Lady, shall I lie in your lap?"

(2) I know of many Elizabethan (and Jacobean) anal sex jokes, frequently using the euphemism of "back door"

Skimming thru my copy of Alan Haynes' Untam'd desire: Sex in Elizabethan England (which is a disorganized book and has a lousy index) isn't turning up anything specific to oral sex...
Wait! I found something! From John Harrington's epigram on the courtier:
A courtier, kind in speech, curst in condition,
Finding his fault could no longer be hidden,
Went to his friend to clear his hard suspicion,
And fearing lest he might be more than chidden,
Fell to a flattering and most base submission,
Vowing to kiss his foot, if he were bidden.
My foot? (said he) nay, that were too submiss,
But three foot higher you deserve to kiss.
I think we can assume it was common...

(3) Oh, and I agree with you about teaching Shakespeare. Something I wrote long ago:
I've come to realize that I really love Shakespeare, despite what I was taught in school. Maybe I'm not up on the latest in teaching methods, but I think that way I was taught Shakespeare in the 1980s wasn't the greatest (and I'm regretting the college-level Shakespeare class as well). There's so much conveyed in performance that you can't get reading the plays slowly privately or in a classroom setting. I think students would be much better served by watching the plays and then reading and discussing them, rather than the other way around. Teach the kids more about Elizabethan/Jacobean England, so they can recognize the resonances, and teach them some of the period slang so they'll get the in-jokes (any mention of horns (which seem to appear in every play) are puns referring to cuckolds)

Maybe we should treat Shakespeare as forbidden fruit -- "you're not old enough to understand this" -- and give kids the subversive thrill of self-discovery. Or maybe, instead of teaching kids the tragedies in public schools -- Romeo & Juliet, Macbeth and Julius Caesar -- start kids on the comedies. Delight the children with Bottom wearing a donkey's head and Pyramus & Thisbe. Or even skip the reading of entire plays, and just pick out some of the more entertaining and accessible scenes to engender a love of wordplay (the tennis puns in Henry V, for example).
Horns and more horns. *g* Well, in my reading, I've determined that impotence, nymphomnia, and cuckoldry were even funnier four hundred years ago than they are now.

Which, I suppose, is an argument for progress.

Or that we're stodgy old farts....
And anal sex was apparently used as contraception
A subject explored in great depth--groan--in a story published in Asimov's last year.

Well, it was Arthuriana. But it did have an awful lot of buggery-for-purposes-of-not-conceiving in it.
Some schools don't bother with the comedies? I think I've seen "A Midsummer Night's Dream" about four times, live, because I was *always* pulling that one for classes. "Much Ado About Nothing" was another repeat.

Oh, and as for oral sex pre-Henry? And nobody's mentioned "The Miller's Tale" yet? "For well he know a woman hath no beard..." That was one of the bits that our teachers didn't hesitate on, and at least half of the boys in class were blushing.
Can't speak for other schools or other times, but I listed the 3 plays we covered in the Florida public HS I attended in the mid 1980s. 1 play each year, except the year we focused solely on American Literature (same year they taught American History).
Ah yes, *that* scene. I got to play Kate in that scene once -- a group of //trav'ling players like 7-84// of us put on a set of scenes from Shakespeare, accompanied by period music, for a *public* high school class (actually, two of them) on Cape Cod. My Petruchio was a sweet 50ish gay man who was lovely to work with, and quite sportsmanlike when I elbowed him too hard. 'Twas a pity we hadn't known our lines better, but we managed. Great fun.

I do hate it when people treat any historical drama like Holy Writ (ditto early music). Some of it is certainly meant to be earthy and raunchy, and does not improve when it sounds as if one is speaking through a pair of sterilized tweezers....
PS: the // // comment was an allusion to "Oor Hamlet," a music-hall style rendition of the play by a Scottish schoolteacher named Adam McNaughton. If you haven't yet heard it, go find it! John Roberts and Tony Barrand recorded it on "A Present From The Gentlemen," and I know the lyrics are on digitrad.