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Sunday, April 02, 2006

A Hundred Vaginas

I've found more than a hundred terms for vagina alone.
Now, that's a nice soundbite for plugging a book (or a blog post). This is Héloïse Sénéchal quoted in the Guardian today about her new Royal Shakespeare Company edition of the complete works. She claims this edition will be less prudish than all others in its glossing of sexual slang. Stanley Wells (always in the front of the S-for-Shakespeare section of a reporter's rolodex, apparently), somewhat petulantly says:
If the best thing you can say about a new edition is that it's filthy, it doesn't say a lot. It's a gimmick, an attempt to grab attention.
That's right, a gimmick, unlike, say, titling a book Looking for Sex in Shakespeare, a book that has been pitched to me by more mailings from Cambridge UP than any other I've seen, not that anyone is looking to grab any attention of course, rigorous Dryasdusts as we all are.

I'm happy that Sénéchal will be introducing our undergraduates to more terms for penis and vagina, though I'm sure they can rattle off more than a hundred already. But her class-based explanation for the abundance of bawdy puns in Shakespeare is bizarre:
These were aimed at the working classes who crowded into the Globe in London for their fill of bawdy entertainment .... "Shakespeare is now an institution, and there is an assumption, especially in schools, that he was using high rhetoric. But the majority of his audience were labourers, craftsmen, ordinary people being catered for in a popular way. They were as smutty-minded then as we are now."

Someone needs to brush up her Rochester.

  • At 4/03/2006 03:01:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote…

    Here are a few more I like:



  • At 4/03/2006 04:16:00 PM, Blogger Hieronimo wrote…

    It's like a modern-day Eric Partridge


  • At 4/03/2006 05:09:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote…

    cunt's creeper, dude. (i'll rely on you for a link.)


  • At 4/03/2006 05:13:00 PM, Blogger Greenwit wrote…

    I had the distinct pleasure of reading the pizzle bit of 1H4 to my class recently... none of which was glossed as anything other than literal in the Signet edition (which I am mistakenly using). So "pizzle" was marked as 'penis', but stockfish ("dried codfish"), sheath (no gloss), bowcase (no gloss), tailor's yard (no gloss!), and standing tuck ("upright rapier" -- like my students know what a rapier is) went unremarked.

    Sometimes a bow case is just a nice place to put your bow


  • At 4/03/2006 06:42:00 PM, Blogger Hieronimo wrote…

    I believe tfs is referring to this piece of early modern writing that you won't find in your Norton Shakespeare (or in your Royal Shakespeare Company edition either). This is a manuscript libel from around 1623 about the Duke of Buckingham's mother. She was a Catholic convert and a friend of the Lord Keeper Williams--both were supporters of the "Spanish" party in the late Jacobean court. All of this made her a target for libellists. Kids, cover your ears.

    Old beldame Buckinghame
    With her lord keeper
    Shee loves the fucking game
    Hee's her cunt creeper.

    [quoted in Thomas Cogswell, The Blessed Revolution: English Politics and the Coming of War, 1621-1624 (Cambridge UP, 1989), p. 47.]

    Note that this incredibly rude poem is written for manuscript circulation among courtiers, on a central political issue of the day. Not exactly food for "labourers, craftsmen, ordinary people ...."

    For more early modern libels, see Alastair Bellany and Andrew McRae's excellent Early Stuart Libels. Plenty of penises and vaginas on display.


  • At 4/03/2006 08:25:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote…

    god i love that poem so much.


  • At 4/04/2006 09:05:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote…

    The word itself makes some men uncomfortable. Vagina.


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