Every month we do this, dipping our toe in the big pool of nudge-nudge-wink-wink that we find in the play of the month. Sometimes there’s a little (like Richard the Third), sometimes a little more , and sometimes a big whopping dose .
Well, what to say about A Midsummer Night’s Dream?
For a play that involves the romantic misadventures of three sets of couples in the woods under the influence of the pansy potion (AND the rites of May), it’s surprising how LITTLE bawdiness there is.
Sure, you can make the whole Bottom as ass transformation into something of either a bestial nature or a silent but visual mule-dick joke. But it’s not in the text explicitly (I’d argue that the ass reference is more of an analog to stupidity and obstinacy, than to sexual prowess or mania).
Sure, there is the “maypole” reference, but that’s pretty oblique (and, if you’ll pardon the pun, pretty flaccid).
Sure, there’s the “Pyramus and Thisby” performance with “kiss(ing) the wall’s hole” and “stones” (V.i.200 and 189, respectively), but even that’s pretty one-note, and quick.
[CONTENT REDACTED: In this blog entry, I made reference to Dr. Pauline Kiernan’s work and book on bawdy in the Bard, Filthy Shakespeare; in doing so, I have offended her by my tone and use of her material. I apologize for the offense, and have thus redacted the reference.]
No, I actually see the play as fairly chaste, with no more offensive passages than, say, The Comedy of Errors (in which the “geography” of Nell discussion is its most bawdy) or Richard the Third (almost none altogether). And certainly there’s absolutely nothing in the play nearing the wildness of the “hunt” imagery in Love’s Labor’s Lost.
isn’t it funny that a play about chaste study is so bawdy, while a play about lovers adventuring into the woods could be so relatively innocent? gotta love Shakespearean oppositional irony…