Fun Shakespeare fact O’ the day, everyone!
Recently, The Onion got in some backlash for calling 9 year old Oscar Nominee Quvenzhane Wallis the “C-Word.” (Rhymes with “runt”. And although I’m using “C-Word” everyone knows what I mean but saying C-Word or c*nt is socially acceptable even though you know what I mean. That’s another post.) I’m not here to debate the merits of whether a joke is over the line, or whether anyone should take The Onion seriously, or whether 9 year old Oscar nominees are off limits for jokes, or whether Jennifer Lawrence should just give me one chance to prove my love for her... that’s been debated way too much. I do have some fun Shakespeare information for you, because that’s what I do. It’s about that taboo word!
There’s been plenty of research as to why that one word is so bad. Ye Olde Medicale Journales used to use that word as a matter of fact term for female genitalia (Isn’t this great for your Monday? My point is coming up.) but somewhere along the line, someone decided that it was going to be a taboo word like the f-word or my favorite swear word, “bookcase” (it just hasn’t caught on yet. It will.) and by the time William Shakespeare was writing, it was, in fact, on the list of bad words that we’re not allowed to say in polite company, only when someone really deserves it, and isn’t a 9 year old who’s biggest crime was starring in a mediocre movie.
When William Shakespeare was writing Twelfth Night, the hilarious masterpiece where a woman disguises herself as a man and helps a Duke fall in love with her with serious homoerotic connotations (other fun fact: back in his day, all the parts were played by men. So this was a man playing a woman, pretending to be a man. Shakespeare was a funny dude) he managed to slip in a joke using that word. Malvolio (WHO SHALL BE REVENGED! that’s for you, Michelle) is reading a note that reads:
By my life, this is my lady’s hand: these be her very
C’s, her U’s, and her T’s; thus she makes her great P’s (II.v)
Did you get that? C... U... and T... (This is unaltered text, kids.) Then of course ends with “great P’s” thus making a potty joke from one of the greatest writers that ever lived. Some days I wonder if he was that great, or if the 16th Century Adam Sandler just played the biggest and best joke in the world on us.
Of course, that’s not the only instance of Shakespeare slipping the word into his text. What your English teacher won’t tell you is that perhaps one of the greatest works since Oog first put smaller rock to bigger rock, Hamlet, contains a very similar joke.
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? (III.ii.)
For the record, this is also the same act that contains the famous “To be or not to be speech.” It’s like if Downtown Abbey was on right after WWE Smackdown. (Both great shows in their own right, but some days I prefer the title changes on Downtown Abbey. John Bates from the top rope! I must be getting older.)
These are just the jokes having to do with that particular offensive word that no one should ever call anyone, ever, and was in the news so I’m going to write about it. Shakespeare is littered with dirty jokes, puns, and overall humor that if the People Who Censor ever caught on, well, William Shakespeare wouldn’t be allowed to be read by anyone. Ever.
I can’t think of a better reason to pick up one of his plays today, can you?