They may edit it out of your school edition, but it doesn’t take long to realise that Shakespeare’s mind was in the gutter.
He’s not always explicit – ‘my cherry lips have often kissed thy stones. Thy stones with lime and hair knit up in thee’ takes a moment – and it might require some disentangling, but the bard liked it hard, and so do we.
Eternal thanks for this image.
Brabantio: What profane wretch art thou?
Iago: I am one, sir, that comes to tell you your daughter and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs.
Much Ado About Nothing
‘Nothing’ was Tudor slang for the vagina. The play is about what one lady may or may not have done with hers. It also features one of the hottest couples in Shakespeareland: Beatrice and Benedick’s whipping tongues have you willing them to just get it on already.
In this scene, the boys engage in some manly banter about what a massive shagger Benedick is – ladies beware this ‘professed tyrant to their sex’.
Beatrice is not fussed. What follows is an innuendo-laden exchange leaving audiences in no doubt that Beatrice, in all their dealings, will come out on top.
Beatrice: I wonder that you will still be talking, Signior Benedick: nobody marks you.
Benedick: What, my dear Lady Disdain! are you yet living?
Beatrice: Is it possible disdain should die while she hath such meet food to feed it as Signior Benedick? Courtesy itself must convert to disdain, if you come in her presence.
Benedick: Then is courtesy a turncoat. But it is certain I am loved of all ladies, only you excepted: and I would I could find in my heart that I had not a hard heart; for, truly, I love none.
Beatrice: A dear happiness to women: they would else have been troubled with a pernicious suitor. I thank God and my cold blood, I am of your humour for that: I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow than a man swear he loves me.
Benedick: God keep your ladyship still in that mind! so some gentleman or other shall ‘scape a predestinate scratched face.
Beatrice: Scratching could not make it worse, an ’twere such a face as yours were.
Benedick: Well, you are a rare parrot-teacher.
Beatrice: A bird of my tongue is better than a beast of yours.
Romeo and Juliet
Act II of Romeo and Juliet is famed for the balcony scene which brings the young lovers together. However, it opens with an altogether cruder exchange between Romeo’s friends, who doubt he’s going to be getting any at this party.
Benvolio: Blind is his love and best befits the dark.
Mercutio: If love be blind, love cannot hit the mark.
Now will he sit under a medlar tree,
And wish his mistress were that kind of fruit
As maids call medlars, when they laugh alone.
Romeo, that she were, O, that she were
An open-arse, thou a poperin pear!
Love’s Labour’s Lost
Some guys decide they need to get shit done, so they don’t have time to be distracted by eating, sleeping or having sex with ladies. Ladies are banished for three years. Sorted. Time to get shit done.
Unfortunately, four ladies turn up and are distracting. Short of being able to show the couples hopping into bed together, Shakespeare mimics sex in thier sparring dialogue, full of innuendo and always leading to a climax.
Biron: Did not I dance with you in Brabant once?
Rosaline: Did not I dance with you in Brabant once?
Biron: I know you did.
Rosaline: How needless was it then to ask the question!
Biron: You must not be so quick.
Rosaline: ‘Tis ‘long of you that spur me with such questions.
Biron: Your wit’s too hot, it speeds too fast, ’twill tire.
Rosaline: Not till it leave the rider in the mire.
Biron: What time o’ day?
Rosaline: The hour that fools should ask.
Biron: Now fair befall your mask!
Rosaline: Fair fall the face it covers!
Biron: And send you many lovers!
Rosaline: Amen, so you be none.
Biron: Nay, then will I be gone.
Hamlet doesn’t spend the whole play moping about and delivering profound statements on human mortality. Here, he flirts badly, makes a rude pun, then pretends he didn’t.
Hamlet: Lady, shall I lie in your lap?
Ophelia: No, my lord.
Hamlet: I mean, my head upon your lap?
Ophelia: Ay, my lord.
Hamlet: Do you think I meant country matters?
Ophelia: I think nothing, my lord.
Hamlet: That’s a fair thought to lie between maids’ legs.
Ophelia: What is, my lord?
The Norton Shakespeare summarises Titus Andronicus’s more memorable plot points: ‘Human sacrifice. Gang rape. Mutilation. Ritual butchery. Mother-son cannibalism.’
I would add to that some fine ‘your mum’ jokes:
Demetrius: Villian, what hast thou done?
Aaron: That which thou canst not undo.
Chiron: Thou hast undone our mother.
Aaron: Villain, I have done thy mother.
Romeo and Juliet (again)
The star-crossed lovers aren’t the only ones getting some. The Nurse, Juliet’s confidante and friend, gets her share of the action:
Nurse: Scurvy knave! I am none of his flirt-gills; I am none of his skains-mates. And thou must stand by too, and suffer every knave to use me at his pleasure!
Peter: I saw no man use you at his pleasure; if I had, my weapon should quickly have been out, I warrant you. I dare draw as soon as another man, if I see occasion in a good quarrel, and the law on my side.
Nurse: Now, afore God, I am so vexed, that every part about me quivers. Scurvy knave!
The Taming of the Shrew
Fairly sure that’s not what she meant.
Petruchio: Who knows not where a wasp does wear his sting? In his tail.
Katharina: In his tongue.
Petruchio: Whose tongue?
Katharina: Yours, if you talk of tails: and so farewell.
Petruchio: What, with my tongue in your tail?
Venus and Adonis
If Venus is crushing on you, you’ll know about it:
Being so enraged, desire doth lend her force
Courageously to pluck him from his horse.
Over one arm the lusty courser’s rein,
Under her other was the tender boy,
Who blush’d and pouted in a dull disdain,
With leaden appetite, unapt to toy;
She red and hot as coals of glowing fire,
He red for shame, but frosty in desire.
The studded bridle on a ragged bough
Nimbly she fastens: —O, how quick is love!—
The steed is stalled up, and even now
To tie the rider she begins to prove:
Backward she push’d him, as she would be thrust,
And govern’d him in strength, though not in lust.
Adonis still won’t put out, being more interested in hunting and in his own pretty face, and becomes the only person in the world who doesn’t want to hear this from the Goddess of Love:
‘Fondling,’ she saith, ‘since I have hemm’d thee here
Within the circuit of this ivory pale,
I’ll be a park, and thou shalt be my deer;
Feed where thou wilt, on mountain or in dale:
Graze on my lips; and if those hills be dry,
Stray lower, where the pleasant fountains lie.’
As You Like It
As is so often the case in Shakespeare, a group of lovelorn youngsters are banished to a forest to flirt, cross-dress, and make bad life choices. Rosalind is freaked out because she keeps finding love letters addressed to her hanging from the trees. Touchstone helps by mocking her with his own, obscene version.
If a hart do lack a hind,
Let him seek out Rosalind.
If the cat will after kind,
So be sure will Rosalind.
Winter garments must be lined,
So must slender Rosalind.
They that reap must sheaf and bind;
Then to cart with Rosalind.
Sweetest nut hath sourest rind,
Such a nut is Rosalind.
He that sweetest rose will find
Must find love’s prick and Rosalind.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
A Midsummer Night’s Dream has plenty of crude bottom and ass jokes from the rude mechanicals, but also Titania’s beautiful description of a sexual embrace. Pretty hot. Even if she’s banging a man with a donkey’s head.
Sleep thou, and I will wind thee in my arms.
Fairies, begone, and be all ways away.
So doth the woodbine the sweet honeysuckle
Gently entwist; the female ivy so
Enrings the barky fingers of the elm.