Catholic Shakespeare - His Plays had so many dirty sex jokes

There is a program on EWTN - I forgot the name of that program,but that program celebrates the fact that William Shakespseare was a catholic man - but isn’t it true that so many of his plays were sexually dirty - for example the first few pages of Romeo and Juliet were filled with dirty sexual jokes.

Examples of Dirty Comments in Romeo and Juliet -->

“my naked weapon” -
"A dog of that house shall move me to stand. I will take the wall of any man or maid of Montague’s."
"'Tis true, and therefore women, being the weaker vessels, are ever thrust to the wall. Therefore I will push Montague’s men from the wall, and thrust his maids to the wall. "
Ay, the heads of the maids, or their maidenheads.
Take it in what sense thou wilt.
Me they shall feel while
I am able to stand
, and
’tis known I am a pretty piece of flesh.

–> “take the wall” refers to rape
–> “women thrust to the wall” refers to rape
–> “take their maidenheads” --> refers to rape
–> “I am able to stand” --> refers to erection

So the most famous Shakespeare play - Romeo and Juliet --> begins with the most dirty sexual jokes, full of immorality and digust. Why are we proud that Shakespeare was a catholic?

Why are we catholics proud that William Shakespeare was a catholic man? His plays were so dirty with sexual jokes. We orthodox catholics so quickly condemn Twilight, saying that it’s evil b/c of the vampies, yet, when it comes to classical literature like Shakespeare that is so dirty, we openly and blindly embrace Shakespeare but condemn Twilight. If Twilight had the same dirty jokes in Shakespeare’s plays, we would so quickly condemn Twilight, but then when William Shakespeare, a fancy English playwright, writes sexual jokes, we justify his jokes by saying everyone has sexual organs. Do you see the double standard here - Why does it even matter is Shakespeare was Catholic? His plays had so many sexual jokes. Do we condemn Twilight just to feel better about ourselves and be self-righteous? If we condemn literature like Twilight we should think twice about celebrating Shakespeare!

When I was in College I took a course, “Chaucer, Shakespeare and Milton.”

Maybe I’ll call my old Alma Mater and ask if they still offer that course, I’ll be sure to get the department chair to add whomever wrote Twilight and I guess the Harry Potter Lady as well to that class. :newidea:

Those aren’t “jokes” those are character development. Shakespeare is telling us something about the person who is saying these things–that he’s randy and violent. Stories have to have some vile characters sometimes, just as a good story most often needs a villain. Add to that, baudiness was acceptable at that time. It’s only after the Puritans came along that people began thinking of their bodies as something dirty. It comes from the puritanical idea that the flesh is totally corrupt and therefore unable to be spiritual–a splitting of the soul from the body that, in effect, denies the Incarnation. It’s why puritanical sects hate the Virgin Mary–she is the embodiment of the Incarnation, of the Catholic teaching that God uses nature instead of negating it, as the Puritans taught. Shakespeare couldn’t stand the Puritans, and makes it quite clear in his plays.

So are you saying that baudiness and dirty jokes are moraaly acceptable? Just because baudiness was acceptable at that time, writers should have a sense of decency when writing. Furthermore, even though the Catholic church does teach that the body is holy, the Catholic Church never tolerated filthiness in language.

This is not my point. I did not mean to say that literature like Twilight has a meritorious degree comparable to classical literature. I wanted to say that we should not condemn literature like Twilight based on the mere presence of vampires and werewolves because the literature of Shakespeare, which many orthodox catholics do embrace, contains vulgarity itself! I just think it is a double standard to accept filthy literature like Shakespeare’s plays which contains so many sexual jokes while condemning books like Twilight for merely having vampires as the main characters.

If we orthodox catholics condemn literature like Twilight, then we must condemn the sexual jokes and vulgarity within Shakespeare’s plays. Which one is worse?

Which one is worst?
Twilight which promotes chastity, guarded virginity, and antiabortion, prolife themes?


Shakespeare’s plays which showcase plenty of dirty sexual jokes?

Della, I don’t understand why you are saying this. Della, it sounds as if you are actually defending the fact that Shakespeare included dirty jokes within his plays. Della, correct me if I am misinterpreting you, but it sounds as if you are defending and justifying the baudiness within Shakespeares play. Why on earth would you do this?

What Della means is that in every play, or script as it might be, needs to have vile characters, and these characters in Shakespeare’s plays are “in character” in that they are vile and rude. It doesn’t mean he approves of what they do or that we should imitate them, but that they’re merely plot devices, if you will, in order to show us how bad these characters really are.

While Shakespeare had an amazing ear for language, his plays are not based on characters that he himself ‘made up’. They are taken from works like Boccaccio’s “Decameron” for example.

So some of the ‘jokes’ were already in the original story that Shakespeare was presenting in play form. And of course, some of the characters were good, some evil, and some a mixture.

A character might start out looking all pious and saintly, and then in a soliliquoy begin to curse, swear, or make lewd remarks (Prince John in Much Ado About Nothing for example) that would show the audience that he was not the ‘good’ person he was trying to present himself to be.

Or a young man might start out sounding like the typical bawdy adolescent ‘player’ talking trash with his friends. . .and suddenly, when actually under the influence of true love, leave off the ‘trash’ and step forward into noble manhood.

Without the ‘bad’ to delineate, would we see the ‘good’ as the person matures in character?

Of course, if you have a problem with the works of the bard, might I suggest the ‘bowdlerized’ version? You see, Thomas Bowdler (born 1754) found Mr. Shakespeare’s works as ‘ugly’ as you do. . .and published a ‘sanitized’ version in the early 19th century he found more ‘fitting’. Needless to say, it was no longer ‘Shakespeare’. It was in a word drivel. . .sure, there were no longer hidden or even ‘explicit’ innuendo and ‘earthiness’. . .there was also little or no character development, conflict, pacing, or a ‘voice’. It was as if somebody had programmed a robot to ‘take out’ naughty words but not to replace them with anything that would supply their place and make the development of the character or the plot go forth, and so there was nothing but a chunk of dialog with a ‘hole’ followed by another ‘chunk’, another hole, etc., not flowing into each other or building from one to another but just plopped down ‘sanitized.’

No, I’m not saying, "oh naughty words are perfectly acceptable entertainment’. But you know, the Bible itself speaks of HARLOTS (gasp), speaks of men getting their fathers drunk (Han and Noah), speaks of women sleeping with a father-in-law (Tamar and Judah), speaks of men avenging the rape of a sister (Dinah), speaks of a woman seducing and then beheading a man (Judith and Holofernes), speaks of men trying to look at a naked woman and then saying that unless she slept with them they’d report her as trying to seduce THEM (Susannah and the Judges). . .a man who disguises himself as his brother in order to steal the blessing of his father (Jacob and Isaac). . .a man offering his virgin daughters to a crowd threatening to rape visiting ‘men’ -who happened to be angels (Lot, Sodom and Gomorrah). . I could go on but you see, even though there are some rather ‘earthy’ stories they have a ‘meaning’.

But I’m curious. If you object to the ‘bawdiness’ (and Shakespeare was by no means so crude as his contemporaries Marlowe and Jonson, not to mention later playwrights like Webster) . . is it for ‘bawdiness’ sake or because you think that Catholics should never use such terms?

When you listen to Shakespeare do you hear ‘only’ the occasional ‘vulgarism’ or do you hear Henry V’s speech to the troops about St. Crispin’s day? Do you hear Juliet’s plaint about a rose by any other name? Do you hear Othello’s descent into madness? Or Lear’s? MacBeth’s journey from loyalty to treason. . . or Henry V’s ‘ascent’ from playboy prince to hero? Do you hear Shylock’s poignant cry that "do not Jews bleed?’ or Portia’s “the quality of mercy is not strained. . .”? Do you hear Beatrice and Benedict falling in love in spite of their ‘merry war’ on each other? How about Hermione’s sufferings and ‘resurrection’ after her husband’s tragic mistakes?

How many people walk away not even remembering a ‘codswallop’ or a joke about a dog, but with a lump in their throat having seen a man triumph in adversity, or good triumph over evil?

When you read books like Twilight, do you just concentrate upon the fact that there is a vampire and immeidately assume this book points toward the occult? Or do you take the time to understand that the element of being a vampire was a symbolic means by which the author created a complex and beautiful analogy of preserving virginity for marriage and the importance of chastity and self control – elements of a true hero. My complaint is against people who so blindly attack books like Twilight just because they see a vampire, and the presence of a vampire is enough for those people to blatantly disregard the underlying theme of chasity within Twilight. Furthermore, Twiilght also manifests a major theme of pro-life, anti-abortion sentiments and the dignity and preciousness of an unborn child. It just makes me so annoyed that so many orthodox catholics are so quick to make a judgment about Twiight when they will go out of their way to defend William Shakespeare yet blindly reject Twilight as occultism. The major purpose of the vampire element of the novel is not to promote the occult. Twilight does not dabble in the occult! Othodox Catholics will go out of their way to defend William Shakespeare, but will not stop to even consider the redeeming qualities of Twilight. Sometimes, I think that Catholics who are so Orthodox and Conservative hold so much self-pride and self-righteousness.

You are discovering one of the wonderful things about the Bard. His writing was done on multiple levels with multiple audiences considered — not an easy thing to do. Always keep in mind Shakespeare, while an artist, was also a guy trying to make a living. If the play didn’t reach all the audiences it needed to reach it was cash out of his pocket, etc.

Maybe that’s why he killed Falstaff off in Henry V - wanted to clean up his act a bit…

Also, in literature, Shakespeare portrays his characters authentically. A villain speaks and acts as a villain. A crude person, speaks and acts as a crude person. etc.

I haven’t read “Twilight”…but if it portrays vampires being nice, misunderstood creatures, that could be problematic…vampires have always been considered symbols of evil.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula portrayed them as evil.

The film, Nosferatu, is based on the book…again vampires are portrayed as evil, and there is a battle between good and evil. The film is on the Vatican’s list of 45 best films.

Even the campy 1960’s vampire movies, often starring Christopher Lee, the vampires were evil. I remember one where the characters who would try to align themselves with with the vampire, would symbolically turn a crucifix upside-down.

I believe Ann Rice started portraying vampires as sympathetic…Lestat is evil but likable… Louis , on the other hand, is tormented. Notice how they live forever and are immortal? They do so by rejecting good and choosing evil.

Shakespeare doesn’t portray evil as good. Iago is arguably the most corrupt character in Shakespeare’s works. He isn’t depicted favorably.

Sometimes we sympathize with them though. I sympathized with Brutus and Cassius. Caesar seemed like kind of an arrogant snob. But Brutus and Cassius were scheming murderers. Pretty evil. But I still sympathize. I assume that was the author’s intent.

Evidenced by the fact that these ‘vile’ characters usually get some sort of comeuppance and a moral lesson is taught.

Montague, who was quoted, suffers through the horrible circumstances of the death of Romeo, for example, if not in other ways.

It was, because Marc Anthony is portrayed as ruthless and shrewd in that play. He rides like a wave the popularity of their public destruction.

As human beings we sympathize with them in their plight towards the end, for me that is especially when the Ghost of Caesar visits Brutus and tells him he will be waiting on the fields at Phillipi. We don’t sympathize with them because of the act they commit, but because we come to know they are doomed as soon as they have committed it, and no one deserves to be brutally murdered, not even murderers themselves.

It seems to me that in an effort to seem holy, that some would deny their own humanity. We are all sinners, and we all have, if not all, at least some of the stain of that fact. Art and literature are not scripture, they are an expression of the nature of reality. Even many, if not most of the saints were not perfect for the entirety of their lives. If there is nothing to be saved from, how can anyone feel the need for salvation?

Other than the very few examples of a perfect life we have been given, how compelling, of what interest, value, or instruction would the story of a perfect person living a life without the need for and their eventual redemption, or condemnation be? It would not be a story that any real person could ever relate to. I should think such a story would do little more than affirm a prideful assessment of one’s own goodness, and be little more than an example to validate one’s self righteous opinion of themselves. Would Father Corapi’s story be as compelling, or as true had he lived perfectly from the moment of his infant baptism? I think not. St. Augustine, or Mother Teresa would not be so inspiring if they never doubted, and never sinned. It is because we are human that human stories are of value.

I think in an effort to seem more holy and righteous, many Christians want others to think that sin is somehow foreign to them, or they pretend it so, and get up in arms over the fact of it, in order to seem that they are above it. They are not. Jesus knew it. The Pharisees were of the other opinion. I wish that Christians would not pretend that they somehow live in a perfect world. The world might then pay them greater heed.

Shakespeare, Chaucer, Boccaccio, Dante, etc lived in time periods who were much less prudish than later eras. Remember that in those times there was very little notion of privacy. Some families ended up sleeping together in one room. This is true for much of human history. Add to that the fact that many of these people lived in closer proximity to animals. They saw nature up close. This also added to the bawdiness and earthiness of these writings. Sure, there are sexual jokes in it. During the Middle Ages, the sacred and the profane (ie. common stuff) went hand and hand. In fact, if you want to get really shocked, just take a look at some of the illuminated manuscripts that decorated books of the gospels, Psalters, etc. You will probably find some very odd and shocking things in it. Also, the cathedrals had so very strange stone creatures in them at times. The worldview was very, very different back then. On the one hand, they were more pius in the sense that they were more aware of the supernatural. On the other, they were also more aware that life is fleeting. They had strong senses of humor and whimsy. By Shakespeare’s time, even though the country had turned protestant, the culture hadn’t completely died out.

In order to look at life which Shakespeare did, you must look at all aspects. It is not true that every “dirty” joke that is spoken in Shakespeare’s plays belongs to the villians. In fact, the villains often are shown with very little humor. The jokes are mostly said by the lower classes or bums like Falstaff. Mercutio, Romeo’s friend also makes a few sexual references in his famous Queen Mab speech as well as other lines that he says but he is hardly considered one of the villains. In fact, this kind of bawdy humor has been around for thousands of years and the Bible is not immune from it either. There are many such references in the OT.

Nope. I concentrate on how poorly written the books are. In another century, no one will be reading anything Twilight related, but Shakespeare will still be read the world over. It has little to do with morality, and almost everything to do with the difference between excellent literature and teenage-angst claptrap.

– Mark L. Chance.

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