[rated NC-17… proceed with caution]
Last month we had almost no bawdiness in Midsummer. The same cannot be said of this month’s Romeo and Juliet.
Within lines of the beginning of the first scene, Sampson is discussing “thrust(ing) his maids to the wall” (I.i.16-17). While we could take this to simply mean that women (all of them) will be pushed in and away from the gutter on the sidewalks, his truer meaning comes when he goes on to discuss the maids’ “maidenheads” (I.i.24), or virginity. If that wasn’t enough, he then tells Gregory, “Me they shall feel while I am able to stand; and ’tis known I am a pretty piece of flesh” (I.i.27-28). Women will feel Sampson when his pretty piece of flesh stands… pretty clear, no? (especially when his next line is “My naked weapon is out!” (I.i.32).
Later in that opening scene, we learn the true cause of Romeo’s depression. Romeo is not getting sexual satisfaction: the object of his desire will not “ope her lap to saint-seducing gold” (I.i.213). Sex. Sex. Sex… is what’s on the minds of Verona’s young men.
But not just them. Juliet’s nurse finds comic remembrance in a slightly bawdy tale from her and Juliet’s past:
For even the day before, (Juliet) broke her brow,
And then my husband (God be with his soul!
A' was a merry man) took up the child:
'Yea,' quoth he, 'dost thou fall upon thy face?
Thou wilt fall backward when thou hast more wit;
Wilt thou not, Jule?' and, by my holidam,
The pretty wretch left crying and said 'Ay.'
What’s the point of the Nurse’s story? That a toddler Juliet fell on her face, but the Nurse’s husband told the toddler that when she’s smarter, she’ll fall on her back for sex (and that the toddler agreed).
Back to the young men. When Benvolio and Mercutio search for Romeo after the Capulet party, Mercutio attempts to
conjure (Romeo) by Rosaline's bright eyes,
By her high forehead and her scarlet lip,
By her fine foot, straight leg and quivering thigh,
And the demesnes that there adjacent lie,
That in thy likeness thou appear to us!
The key here is the “demesnes” or domains that are adjacent to the quivering thigh: her genitals. When Benvolio says that such statements will anger Romeo, Mercutio disagrees, saying,
This cannot anger him. 'Twould anger him
To raise a spirit in his mistress' circle
Of some strange nature, letting it there stand
Till she had laid it and conjured it down.
ah, high school freshman lit will NEVER be the same…
Mercutio says that words won’t anger Romeo. What WOULD anger his is to get an hard-on (“raise a spirit”) and put it in Rosaline’s pussy (“in his mistress’ circle”), and do her (“letting it there stand”) until she makes him come and he goes soft again (“she had laid it and conjured it down”).
Benvolio would like to stop Mercutio but he is on a roll:
If love be blind, love cannot hit the mark.
Now will he sit under a medlar tree
And wish his mistress were that kind of fruit
As maids call medlars when they laugh alone.
O Romeo, that she were, O, that she were
An open arse and thou a poperin pear!
For those thinking that first line is clean, I will point you to the post-hunt archery scene from Love’s Labor’s Lost (think, he wants to “hit” that). Then Mercutio pictures Romeo sitting under a medlar tree… Now, the medlar was a type of apple (more on that in just a second), but it was also an Elizabethan slang for the vulva. And what will Romeo do under that tree? Why, wish that Rosaline was a medlar apple… and why do maids laugh when talking about the medlar? Because the medlar had the shape of “an open arse” which is both an open ass, but also another name for the medlar apple. And just to keep the botanical imagery coming (no pun intended), Mercutio wishes, if Rosaline was “an open arse,” then Romeo was a “poperin pear,” a variety of the fruit that looks like a phallus: he wishes Romeo was a hard cock and Rosaline an open arse.
The next morning, when Romeo approaches and Benvolio says, “Here comes Romeo!” (II.iv.36), Mercutio not only puns on Romeo’s name, but also cracks bawdy: “Without his roe, like a dried herring” (II.iv.37); Romeo is without his roe, or seed, because (Mercutio assumes) he found someone to relieve him of his semen. When Mercutio berates Romeo for fleeing them the night before, Romeo responds,
Pardon, good Mercutio. My business was great, and in such a case as mine a man may strain courtesy.
That's as much as to say, such a case as yours constrains a man to bow in the hams.
Romeo starts off clean-minded: I had important things to do, and in that instance (“case”), a person can be less than courteous. Mercutio takes “case” and runs with it: the word also meant in Shakespeare’s day the female genitalia. Thus, he means “In other words, the kind of pussy you’ve been with can cause a man to bow” and here “bow” means to bend over not only in a sign of courtesy, but also in pain over a venereal disease.
Later in the same scene, Mercutio describes love:
this driveling love is like a great natural, that runs lolling up and down to hide his bauble in a hole.
Stop there, stop there.
Thou desirest me to stop in my tale against the hair.
Thou wouldst else have made thy tale large.
O, thou art deceived; I would have made it short: for I was come to the whole depth of my tale; and meant, indeed, to occupy the argument no longer.
A natural in this case is an idiot, in the guise of a court jester, and he hides his jester’s wand in a hole, or his cock in a pussy, take your pick. When Benvolio tries to quiet him, Mercutio asks if Benvolio wants him to stop his story before he wants to (“stop in my tale against the hair”) or stuff his penis down into his pubic hair (“stop in my tale against the hair”). When Benvolio says that Mercutio’s story will become “large” or indecent, Mercutio takes large to mean big, erect, and corrects Benvolio that he is wrong: instead, Mercutio would go to the full length of his cock (“whole depth of [his] tale”) until he came and “made it short” again… and when short, it would “occupy the argument no longer.”
After all of this, the whole “prick of noon” statement by Mercutio to the Nurse is tame.
We get a couple more bawdy statements by the Nurse to Juliet (“But you shall bear the burden soon at night” [II.v.76], and “The County Paris hath set up his rest // That you shall rest but little” [IV.v.6-7]), but really, once Mercutio is dead, so is bawdiness in the play.