The Merry Wives… and the Bawdy Boys, Part Two (with the focus on the boy)

NOTE: This post is rated NA-17. Or at least a hard R. If you’re easily offended or blush too quickly, turn back now. You HAVE been warned.

OK, so yesterday we hit the first half of The Merry Wives of Windsor, in terms of bawdiness… and now we get to the one scene that most people think of when they think of bawdy puns in the play:

The Latin Lesson.

[does is strike anyone as unusual that the Pages have two children, but the Fords have none? Could Ford’s jealousy have at its root a certain lack of sexual self-esteem? discuss.]

Ah, the Latin lesson, in which young Master Page goes over his verb forms with Parson Evans. From slang-play to homophones, the scene is chockablock with conceivably bawdy references. When translating “lapis” into English, the boy says, “A stone” (IV.i.29), which for the Elizabethans was slang for testicle.

It grows a bit rowdier when young Page discusses his articles:

Articles are borrowed of the pronoun, and be thus declined: Singulariter, nominativo, hic, haec, hoc.
  • IV.i.37-8

On the surface, young Page is reciting the different forms of “this.” However, the first two forms (hic and haec) sound like “hick” and “hack” both of which were slang for sex in Shakespeare’s day. Evans, the Welshman, then asks for the “vocative case” (IV.i.45), which he mispronounces (here and throughout the rest of the scene) as “focative,” the homophone of “fuck-ative.” Only it gets better (or worse, depending on your point-of-view): “case” had the connotation of vagina… so did “O” as in the boy’s response: “O, vocativo, O” (IV.i.47).

Quickly quickly gets into the act when Evans says that the boy’s response is lacking, or in Latin: “Caret” (IV.i.48); she puns on carrot calling it a “good root” (IV.i.49), which had a penile connotation. And it’s almost as if with this audience, the boy is emboldened to go even further. When Evans asks for the “genitive case” (genitive, really? but doesn’t that sound like genital? uh, yeah.), the young Page responds with “Genitivo, horum, harum, horum” (IV.i.55). This sends Quick-Lay off the deep end, exclaiming, “‘Vengeance of Jenny’s case! fie on her! Never name her, child, if she be a whore!” (IV.i.56-7). Remember the connotation of “case” a paragraph ago? Well, now God’s Vengeance — or a plague — is being called down upon Jenny’s vagina… a sexually transmitted disease because she’s a whore (the homophone “horum“). Now before YOU go too far, and begin thinking that “harum” is a homophone for the Arabic “harem”… don’t. That didn’t come into being for at least another fifty years; HOWEVER, “harum” IS a homophone for “hare,” an animal notorious for its sexual proclivities. Quickly then calls the pastor to task for teaching the boy such terms:

You do ill to teach the child such words. he teaches him to hick and to hack, which they’ll do fast enough of themselves, and to call ‘horum.’ Fie upon you!
  • IV.i.59-62

Remember “hick” and “hack” from above, and “horum” here sounds like the call to “whore ’em!”… all the actions of young men (who “do it fast enough of themselves”) according to Quickly.

Who probably knows very well from personal experience.

By the end, Evans is warning the boy that “if (he) forget(s) (his) qui‘s, (his) quae‘s, and (his) quad‘s, (he) must be preeches” (IV.i.71-2). In other words, if the (or any) boy forgets his qui‘s (or “key” or dick) or his quae‘s (or “case” or pussy) or his quod‘s (or “cods” or balls), he might as well be “breeched” or spanked on his bare ass.

As the scene ends, the boy’s mother, who has heard all this preceding proceedings, says, “He’s a better scholar that I thought he was” (IV.i.74). With the bawdiness of the mother (as seen in yesterday’s discussion), is the bawdiness of the son any surprise?

That would be punchline enough, if it wasn’t for one small thing:

the boy’s name.

William.

As in William Shakespeare.

That dirty joker.

There’s some more bawdiness to this play, but we’ll leave that for yet another day…

Comment?