Shakespeare, Onions and Sex…….

Shakespeare was rather keen on onions.Let me explain…

In the ‘ Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ Bottom gives final directions before presenting a play before the Duke and his party, tells them to go home and attend to this, that and the other, and says :
” ‘And most dear actors eat no onions nor garlic, for we are to utter sweet breath; and I do not doubt but to hear thern say it is a sweet comedy.’
When Helena, at the end of ‘All’s Well that Ends Well,’ finds her husband and her mother, the old Lord Lafen exclaims:
“‘Mine eyes smell onions; I shall weep anon, Good Tom Drum, lend me a handkercher; so; I thank thee; wait on me home, I’ll make sport with thee.’
In the introduction to the ‘Taming of the Shrew,’ the lord, sending instructions to his page to enact the part of wife to the old drunkard whom they are about to befool, says:
“‘Bid him shed tears, And if the boy have not a woman’s gift To rain a shower of commanded tears, An onion will do well for such a shift.’
“Enobarbus, comforting Anthony on the death of his wife, Fulvia, says :
” ‘The tears live in an onion that should water this sorrow.’
And later the same Enobarbus exclaims on an occasion when he deems it well to turn the current of pathetic thoughts – “‘Look, they weep, and I – am onion-eyed.”

The above now gives me an excuse to look at the smutty side of Shakespeare.
Dear old Will loved making jokes about it. But most are couched in Elizabethan jargon “Therein lies the rub”.
For sexual intercourse might be as vivid or confusing as “making the beast with two backs”
I am one sir, that comes to tell you your daughter and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs (Othello 1,1,126)
or as oblique as “filling a bottle with a tunne-dish” – putting a funnel into a bottle.
(Measure for Measure 3,1,182)
The bard uses many euphemisms for vagina (thigh, womb, belly etc) but more slyly he sometime puns on words containing a “cun” sound, such as “encounter” and “cunning”. “Cunny” or “cunt” was common Elizabethan slang.
Now she is in the very lists of love
The champion mounted for the hot encounter (Venus and Adonis 595-596)

In The Winter’s Tale, the women are gossiping about Hermione becoming pregnant.
SECOND LADY: She is spread into a goodly bulk; good time encounter her.

The point being that intercourse with a pregnant woman obviously can’t get her any more pregnant. The Roman historian Suetonious (69 – 122) wrote about Augustus Caesar`s daughter Julia in the same vein: “She took passengers only when the boat was full”

Shakespeare also delights in making “stand” jokes, which would probably fly over the heads of modern theatre goers. A “cock stand” was a standard phrase of the time for an erection. In the Two Gentlemen of Verona

SPEED: How stands the matter with them?
LAUNCE: Marry, thus; when it stands well with him, it stands well with her (II, 20-23)

And in Twelfth Night (2,5), a lewd pun and an example of Elizabethan toilet humour
MALVOLIO: By my life, this is my lady’s hand these be her very C’s, her U’s and her T’s and thus makes she her great P’s.

The line would be read, “her very C’s, her U’s, ‘n’ her T’s,” and an Elizabethan audience would quickly realise what he was spelling. He also adds a line that would grace any “Carry on” film “and thus she makes her great P’s.”


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