Thursday, November 20, 2008

Filthy (and by that I mean Stupid and Ridiculous) Shakespeare

So I was thinking the other day what Shakespeare might have to say on the subject of unemployment. Then I thought it would be funny to break out my copy of Filthy Shakespeare, since when you are unemployed you do tend to swear. A lot. :)

Wow, what a horrible book this is. I mean, it's offensively bad. I have "Bawdy Shakespeare", the classic reference on Shakespeare's more colorful language. The problem with that one is that, having been written over half a century ago, it goes to great lengths to cover up its own subject matter. Students today looking up the dirty Shakespeare words would probably also have to start by looking up words like "pudenda."

No such problem with Filthy Shakespeare, where even the chapter titles are so profane I wouldn't let my mother anywhere near them. Forget about f-words, there's a couple of good variations of c-words in there as well. I'm not kidding, there is a chapter entitled "Pertaining To .... " well, country matters. You know?

My problem is not so much with the language, but with the childish way it ends up presented. For instance, did you know that the word "all" could also be a reference to male or female genitals? Now, take that knowledge and go to any passage in Shakespeare that uses the word, and replace it with the swear word of your choice (I'm trying very hard not to just go for broke and use the same language this book uses). Because, as everybody knows, if a word could mean something else in one context, then OF COURSE Shakespeare meant it that way EVERY TIME HE USED IT.

As I write this review I keep flipping randomly through the book, hoping to find something good to say and only coming up with more examples of why I hate it. Want a good one? Try this out at a cocktail party (gasp! I said cocktail!! I must have meant buggery party!!!): "Hey everybody, did you know that Shakespeare's name really is slang for wanker? Get it? Shake your spear? Hahaha, isn't that a riot? No? Anyway...")

The format of each chapter is simple : Eye-catching obscene title ("One Prick Too Many" is about the tamest one I can find), chapter summary where the author tells us what sorts of words we can hope to find, and in what scene of what play, and then some normal text that attempts to actually be grown up talk. Then the scene, and then a word-for-word translation of the scene with all the dirty words swapped in, which ends up for the most part making no sense at all. Oh, and then a glossary that breaks down every word, just in case you missed it the first 10 times. Each chapter is like it's own little Freudian lesson - if it's longer than it is wide, it's a phallic reference, and if it's round (or soft or indented or apparently fruity or birdlike) it's a female reference.

Methinks somebody needs to tell the author that sometimes a rapier is just a rapier. I'm left thinking that this book is some sort of joke to be passed among Shakespeareans so we can all chuckle and say "Oh Pauline, you tramp! Oh no you didn't!" and then move on.

5 comments:

Bill said...

Yeah, I saw that one in the bookstore and moved on.

There's a book called Naughty Shakespeare by Michael Macrone and Tom Lulevich that I think is closer to what you're looking for.

Alan K.Farrar said...

It does serve a useful purpose in that it is the way teenagers (at least those in my experience - mainly UK and UK schooled) look at the language and exploit every chance of an innuendo.
I am with you though in that it is ever so easy to go over board.

Anonymous said...

Gay males responsible for a decline in the birth rate of London. Give me a break! IThat one about shake-spear is even dumber. In fact I can sum up in one word the quality of that book: DUMB

james said...

The title intrigued me, thus I "Amazoned." Upon receiving the book I immediately turned to the section dealing with Love's Labour's Lost; my favorite comedy.
The book augmented the explanations provided by my Arden edition, furthering my understanding of some of the obscure sexual puns, which the work is loaded. It provided the concordance that I have been looking for, and for that I am grateful. Perhaps I am simple and unschooled.

ShakespearesLady said...

I love my Shakespearean insult mug. Whenever someone tries to bother me when reading I just hold it up and tell them to pick whichever phrase suits them :) It sounds more effective than this book.