Bawdy, Part Two


This entry rated R… cover the kiddies’ eyes…

It seems that when I did the discussion of the wooing scene from The Taming of the Shrew (Act Two, Scene One, lines 169-281) a couple of days back, I forgot to deal with the bawdy aspects (like I said I was going to in the the original “Bawdy, Body, Who’s got the Bawdy?” entry).

So here we go…

When Kate tells Petruchio that people who know her call her Katherine (which is true for the most part, save her sister and her father, who both refer to her–once apiece–by the diminutive version), Petruchio responds:

You lie, in faith; for you are call'd plain Kate,
And bonny Kate and sometimes Kate the curst;
But Kate, the prettiest Kate in Christendom
Kate of Kate Hall, my super-dainty Kate,
For dainties are all Kates, and therefore, Kate,
Take this of me, Kate of my consolation;
Hearing thy mildness praised in every town,
Thy virtues spoke of, and thy beauty sounded,
Yet not so deeply as to thee belongs,
Myself am moved to woo thee for my wife.

To get the sexual innuendo here, we need to break out the Oxford English Dictionary Second Edition on CD-ROM (v. 4.0), where we find that “dainty” can mean both “Anything estimable, choice, fine, pleasing or delightful; hence occas., a luxury, rarity” and “Anything pleasing or delicious to the palate; a choice viand, a delicacy”, while “Kate” here is a pun on “cate” which  was “Provisions or victuals bought (as distinguished from, and usually more delicate or dainty than, those of home production).”  Thus, a simple praise (“you’re fine”) becomes a double entendre (“I want to eat you”… and here, where not talking cannibalism, but cunnilingus).  Kate either cannot or does not have the opportunity or inclination to respond to the oral sex innuendo, so she moves quickly to a response that is clean and chaste in nature:

Moved! In good time: let him that moved you hither
Remove you hence: I knew you at the first
You were a moveable.
Why, what's a moveable?
A joint-stool.
Thou hast hit it: come, sit on me.

Petruchio’s response again is filled with double (or in this case triple) entendre.  He could be a simple joint stool, so sit on him.  Or, he could mean for her to sit on his lap (and one would not have to go too far to deduce sexual penetration here).  Of course, given the “edible” aspects of the opening passage, the concept of cunnilingus again comes up, so to speak.

You can almost hear Monty Python playing in the background…

Kate again attempts to respond with a chaste retort, connecting Petruchio’s “seat” to a donkey, both of which are meant to bear a rider:

Asses are made to bear, and so are you.
Women are made to bear, and so are you.

Again, Petruchio is relentless in his sexualizing her responses, and once again, there’s a double meaning: women are not only meant to bear children (childbirth), but also the weight of a man in sex (the creation of said child).  When Kate responds, she attempts to take the subject back to animals, moving from the donkey to a worthless horse:

No such jade as you, if me you mean.
Alas! good Kate, I will not burden thee;
For, knowing thee to be but young and light--
Too light for such a swain as you to catch;
And yet as heavy as my weight should be.

why?  is it that he realizes he’s won, as he now has her thinking (whether consciously or subconsciously) in a sexualized manner… after all, Kate has now referred to Petruchio as a donkey and a horse, animals known for their size of their sexual organs

Petruchio doesn’t respond so much to the horse remark, but moves back to the “women are made to bear (the weight of the man)” line of thinking.

He states that he will not “burden” her because she is “young and light.”  As noted in the earlier blog entry, Petruchio’s “light” means “flirtatious” and Kate’s “swain” means “lover” (both OED).  He has now got her referring to him as a possible lover.

Later, the dialogue continues into the wasp phase:

Come, come, you wasp; i' faith, you are too angry.
If I be waspish, best beware my sting.
My remedy is then, to pluck it out.
Ay, if the fool could find it where it lies,
Who knows not where a wasp does wear his sting?
In his tail.
In his tongue.
Whose tongue?
Yours, if you talk of tails: and so farewell.
What, with my tongue in your tail? nay, come again,
Good Kate; I am a gentleman.

Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve moved from cunnilingus to analingus.  And this may be a step too far for Kate, as she strikes him a line later.  But within a few more lines, we’re back to animal husbandry with their discussion of cocks, hens, and cravens.  “Cock” here is NOT a penis reference, funnily enough, as the word will not take on that meaning for another half-century at least).

When Petruchio later says that he is “too young for (Kate),” he may strike a nerve (completely possible given the seeming urgency of the play to marry off the older Kate so that the younger Bianca can be wed as well).  Is Kate’s response that Petruchio is “withered” a double entendre, referring not only to wrinkles on his face, but folds of skin on his flaccid penis, one that is not erect, and therefore not youthful?  It’s possible.

Petruchio later brings mythic proportions to Kate:

Did ever Dian so become a grove
As Kate this chamber with her princely gait?
O, be thou Dian, and let her be Kate;
And then let Kate be chaste and Dian sportful!

The mythic Diana was the goddess of virginity.  Petruchio says that he wants Kate to trade places with Diana so Kate can be chaste… the implication is that Kate is “sportful” and sexual.  Kate finds this laughable:

Where did you study all this goodly speech?
It is extempore, from my mother-wit.
A witty mother! witless else her son.
Am I not wise?
Yes; keep you warm.
Marry, so I mean, sweet Katharina, in thy bed

And Petruchio brings it back to the bedroom… and within a dozen lines, he will bring the rhetorical argument full circle, back to Kates/cates:

For I am he am born to tame you Kate,
And bring you from a wild Kate to a Kate
Conformable as other household Kates.

Here, however, another level of meaning is brought into the argument: Kate as cat.  In Shakespeare’s day, “pussy” could mean both a “cat” and “girl or woman” (OED).   Now, I’d love to make a pussy/cat/”female pudendum” (OED)/cunnilingus joke here, but the word won’t take on that meaning for another three hundred years.

man, I LOVE the OED!

So there you have it… the bawdy in the wooing scene… did I miss any?

2 Replies to “Bawdy, Part Two”

  1. You might have a bit of a typo here. You wrote “he wants Kate to trade places Diana.” Did you mean to say “with Diana”?

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