Reading or watching Shakespeare can sometimes be confusing. Slang and popularly accepted meanings of words change so quickly that it’s hard to keep up, and anyone who watches a single scene of a Shakespearean play can attest to the language barrier. He may come off sounding stuffy, but Shakespeare actually wrote some pretty risqué things in his day. Here are some of the raciest lines, and their explanations, from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet
. Come see the racy action for yourself at Sidney Harman Hall through October 12th!
More in depth explanations can be found at clicknotes.com here: http://www.clicknotes.com/romeo/index.htmlAct 1 Scene 1
Sampson: 'Tis all one. I will show myself a tyrant. When I have fought
with the men, I will be cruel with the maids- I will cut off their heads.
Gregory: The heads of the maids?
Sampson: Ay, the heads of the maids, or their maidenheads.Explanation:
Sampson is telling Gregory that he will cut the maids’ heads off or take their virginity.Act 1 Scene 1
Benvolio: A right fair mark, fair coz, is soonest hit.
Romeo: Well, in that hit you miss. She'll not be hit
With Cupid's arrow. She hath Dian's wit,
And, in strong proof of chastity well arm'd,
From Love's weak childish bow she lives unharm'd.Explanation:
In archery, a "fair mark" is one that's easy to hit. Benvolio is suggesting that because the lady is beautiful, she may be easy to win, and that Romeo is also good-looking, so that should help. Romeo replies that the lady cannot be hit "With Cupid's arrow. She hath Dian's wit.” "Dian" is Diana, the fierce goddess of chastity, so Romeo is saying that his lady is extremely chaste and won’t give in to his advances.Act 1 Scene 3
Nurse: …And yet, I warrant, it bad upon it brow
A bump as big as a young cock'rel's stone;
A perilous knock; and it cried bitterly.
'Yea,' quoth my husband, 'fall'st upon thy face?
Thou wilt fall backward when thou comest to age;
Wilt thou not, Jule?' It stinted, and said 'Ay.'Explanation:
When she was a small child, Juliet fell down and had a huge bump on her head, and the nurse’s husband made a dirty joke to her, saying she falls on her face now, but she’ll fall backward (meaning “to have sex”) when she gets older. At the time, Juliet is too young to know that, so when she says "Ay" it's hilarious to the nurse.Act 2 Scene 1
Mercutio: … I conjure thee by Rosaline's bright eyes.
By her high forehead and her scarlet lip,
By her fine foot, straight leg, and quivering thigh,
And the demesnes that there adjacent lie,
That in thy likeness thou appear to us!
Benvolio: An if he hear thee, thou wilt anger him.
Mercutio: This cannot anger him. 'Twould anger him
To raise a spirit in his mistress' circle
Of some strange nature, letting it there stand
Till she had laid it and conjur'd it down.
That were some spite; my invocation
Is fair and honest: in his mistress' name,
I conjure only but to raise up him.
Benvolio: Come, he hath hid himself among these trees
To be consorted with the humorous night.
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.
O, Romeo, that she were, O that she were
An open et cetera, thou a pop'rin pear!Explanation:
"Demesnes" are estates, or domains, where a lord has the rights to hunt and plow, and such domains were commonly used as metaphors in erotic poetry. “Spirit” was slang for semen or the male genitalia, and "circle," "stand," and "laid" are all related double-entendres. Describing the spirit as "of some strange nature" is Mercutio's way of making the point that Romeo would get angry only if some stranger had sex with Rosaline before he did. A medlar is a small, brown-skinned, and round, but has a cleft like an apricot and a deep cup-shaped depression at the stem end. Also, it's only edible when it's half-rotten and starting to split open. Mercutio is saying that Romeo will sit under a medlar tree and wish that Rosaline would open up like a medlar. A "pop'rin pear" is a Flemish fruit that looks like it would fit nicely in the medlar's cup-shaped depression.Act 2 Scene 4
Romeo: Thou wast never with me for anything when thou wast not
there for the goose.
Mercutio: Why, is not this better now than groaning for love? Now
art thou sociable, now art thou Romeo; now art thou what thou
art, by art as well as by nature. For this drivelling love is like a
great natural that runs lolling up and down to hide his
bauble in a hole.
Benvolio: Stop there, stop there!
Mercutio: Thou desirest me to stop in my tale against the hair.
Benvolio: Thou wouldst else have made thy tale large.
Mercutio: O, thou art deceiv'd! I would have made it short; for I
was come to the whole depth of my tale, and meant indeed to
occupy the argument no longer.
Romeo: Here's goodly gear!
Nurse. Is it good-den?
Mercutio: 'Tis no less, I tell ye; for the bawdy hand of the dial is
now upon the prick of noon.
Benvolio: She will endite him to some supper.
Mercutio: A bawd, a bawd, a bawd! So ho!
Romeo: What hast thou found?
Mercutio: No hare, sir; unless a hare, sir, in a lenten pie, that is
something stale and hoar ere it be spent
An old hare hoar,
And an old hare hoar,
Is very good meat in Lent;
But a hare that is hoar
Is too much for a score
When it hoars ere it be spent.Explanation:
In the line about the goose, Romeo is saying that Mercutio never goes anywhere with him without looking for a prostitute. Mercutio later makes a whole series of double-entendres around the words “bauble,” “hole,” “tail” and “tale,” “hair,” “large,” “short,” “depth,” and “occupy.” "Gear" means "stuff," but in the spirit of the occasion, Romeo is probably also using "gear" in its slang meaning as sexual organs. The “prick” joke is another obvious double-entendre. By saying that she is inviting Romeo to supper, Benvolio is clearly implying that the Nurse is a prostitute, as a virtuous woman wouldn't ask a man to supper. "Bawd" means "prostitute" and is also hunter's slang for "hare." "So ho" is a hunter's cry upon spotting the quarry. Romeo asks him what he has spotted, and Mercutio answers with a string of double-entendres. The bawdy meaning is "Not a hare, unless it's the kind of whore who is only good enough when you can't get someone better, in which case she would be so whorishly stale and moldy that you'd be disgusted before you were finished with her."Act 2 Scene 5
Nurse: …Hie you to church; I must another way,
To fetch a ladder, by the which your love
Must climb a bird's nest soon when it is dark.
I am the drudge, and toil in your delight;
But you shall bear the burden soon at night.Explanation:
"Bird's nest" is the Nurse's metaphor for Juliet's bedroom, but it also probably refers to an intimate part of Juliet's body. The Nurse adds that she must do a lot of work for Juliet's pleasure, but it is Juliet who "shall bear the burden soon at night". "Bear the burden" means "do the work," with an obvious sexual meaning.Act 4 Scene 5
Nurse: …Sleep for a week; for the next night, I warrant,
The County Paris hath set up his rest
That you shall rest but little.Explanation:
"Set up his rest," a term from a card game, means "staked a claim," and of course the reason that Juliet will "rest but little" is that her new husband will claim her time for something other than sleeping.
Labels: racy lines, Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare, Shakespeare Theatre Company