8 of Shakespeare’s Hidden Dirty Jokes (And their Modern Music Equivalents)

(This article contains content intended for mature audiences only)

Anyone who remembers “the beast with two backs” from Othello or the “tongue in your tail” from The Taming of the Shrew has at least some inkling of Shakespeare’s devious wordplay.

Unfortunately, however, many printings of Shakespeare’s work gloss over the subtler aspects of his dirty humor, which can be juvenile, masterful, crass, or any combination thereof.

On the occasion of his 446th birthday, let’s take a look at eight of The Bard’s less conspicuous dirty jokes – and (just for kicks) see how the imagery is relevant to modern music.

1. Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Love’s Labour’s Lost, Act IV, Scene 1

Context: Costard, Maria, and Boyet are discussing archery.

Text:

MARIA:

A mark marvellous well shot; for they both did hit it.

BOYET:

A mark! O, mark but that mark! A mark, says my lady!

Let the mark have a prick in’t, to mete at, if it may be.

MARIA:

Wide o’ the bow-hand! I’ faith, your hand is out.

COSTARD:

Indeed, ‘a must shoot nearer, or he’ll ne’er hit the
clout.

BOYET:

An if my hand be out, then belike your hand is in.

COSTARD:

Then will she get the upshoot by cleaving the pin.

MARIA:

Come, come, you talk greasily; your lips grow foul.

COSTARD:

She’s too hard for you at pricks, sir; challenge her
to bowl.

BOYET:

I fear too much rubbing; good-night, my good owl.

At First Glance: Maria and Costard tease Boyet for being out of practice at archery.

Pay Attention To: “let the mark have a prick in’t”; “shoot nearer, or he’ll ne’er hit”; “then will she get the upshoot”; “she’s too hard for you at pricks”; “I fear too much rubbing”

Try This On for Size: If you want the arrow to hit the mark, you can’t shoot from so far away.

Modern Musical Approximation:

I’ve got my love gun loaded, with hugs and kisses
And when I pull the trigger, there will be no misses
Ain’t no need to hide, ain’t no use to run
‘Cause I’ve got you in the sights of my love gun

- Albert King, The Hunter

2. Un-Dentured Servant: The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Act III, Scene 1

Context: Speed , a servant, is a servant reading over a list of qualities in a milkmaid for hire.

Text:

SPEED:

‘Inprimis, She can milk.’

LAUNCE:

Ay, that she can.

SPEED:

‘Item, She brews good ale.’

LAUNCE:

And thereof comes the proverb, ‘Blessing of your heart, you brew good ale.’

SPEED:

‘Item, She hath no teeth.’

LAUNCE:

I care not for that neither, because I love crusts.

SPEED:

‘Item, She is curst.’

LAUNCE:

Well; the best is, she hath no teeth to bite.

At First Glance: The woman can milk a cow and brew ale; plus, Launce isn’t deterred by the fact that her smile is unsightly.

Pay Attention To: the images fresh “milk” and frothy “ale” bring to mind; why having “no teeth” might be a virtue

Try This On for Size: A heady ale goes down much smoother without all those teeth getting in the way.

Modern Musical Approximation:

My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard,
And they’re like
It’s better than yours

- Kelis, Milkshake

3. The Birds and the Buttons: Hamlet, Act I, Scene 3

Context: Laertes is warning his sister, Ophelia, against pursuing a relationship with Hamlet.

Text:

LAERTES:

Then weigh what loss your honour may sustain

If with too credent ear you list his songs,

Or lose your heart, or your chaste treasure open

To his unmaster’d importunity.

Fear it, Ophelia, fear it, my dear sister;

And keep you in the rear of your affection,

Out of the shot and danger of desire.

The chariest maid is prodigal enough

If she unmask her beauty to the moon:

Virtue itself scopes not calumnious strokes:

The canker galls the infants of the spring

Too oft before their buttons be disclos’d:

And in the morn and liquid dew of youth

Contagious blastments are most imminent.

At First Glance: Yielding to Hamlet’s avowals of affection could really damage your honor, especially since young people are so rash.

Pay Attention To: “too credent ear” (for Shakespeare, there’s no such thing as a PG-rated orifice); not opening “your chaste treasure”; the “rear of your affection”; the “shot” of desire; “calumnious strokes”; “disclos’d” buttons (as in, the opposite of “clos’d”); the “liquid dew of youth”; “contagious blastments” (and you don’t want to catch what that’ll give you)

Try This On For Size: Don’t open your buttons to the liquid dew of youth because contagious blastments are imminent.

Modern Musical Approximation:

Don’t let life push you around
Make your own path
Never look back
Some things are to come undone
Zippers are one
Keep your pants on
Keep your pants on
Keep your pants on

- Young MC, Keep Your Pants On

4. Will They or Won’t They?: Sonnet 125

Context: A love poem addressed to an unknown “thee.”

Text:

The sea, all water, yet receives rain still,
And in abundance addeth to his store;
So thou, being rich in ‘Will,’ add to thy ‘Will’
One will of mine, to make thy large will more.

At First Glance: Since something as full of water as the sea can still accommodate more rain, you should add my will to yours.

Pay Attention To: the word “will,” which can mean: 1) personal drive; 2) a wish or desire; 3) lust; 4) a slang word for phallus; 5) a slang word for female genitalia; 6) a shortened name for William, which, oh yeah, happens to be the author of the poem

Try This On For Size: Since you have a lot of “will,” let my “will” make your “will” larger.

Modern Musical Approximation:

Don’t hate me
One is where they rate me
Lately you could find me
Behind the door marked VIP
Eating grapes under the AC
Big willie style is how we do it

Now how we do it
You know it’s big willie style

- Will Smith, Big Willie Style

5. Happy Camper: Venus and Adonis

Context: Venus runs into Adonis in the woods and falls madly in love with him.

Text:

VENUS:

I’ll be a park, and thou shalt be my deer;

Feed where thou wilt, on mountain or in dale:

Graze on my lips, and if those hills be dry,

Stray lower, where the pleasant fountains lie.

Within this limit is relief enough,

Sweet bottom-grass and high delightful plain,

Round rising hillocks, brakes obscure and rough,

To shelter thee from tempest and from rain:

At First Glance: Venus is really into landscaping.

Pay Attention To: “thou shalt by my deer” (dear); “stray lower”; “pleasant fountains”; “sweet bottom-grass”; “round rising hillocks”

Try This On for Size: There’s enough sweet bottom-grass around my pleasant fountain to keep you smiling all day.

Modern Musical Approximation:

Come go with me, babe
Come go with me, girl
Baby, let’s go
To the cabin down below

-Tom Petty, Cabin Down Below

6. Wall-E: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act V, Scene 1

Context: A play-within-the-play is being performed – badly: Thisby and Pyramus are two lovers tragically separated by a wall, which is played by an actual person.

Text:

THISBY:

O wall, full often hast thou beard my moans,
For parting my fair Pyramus and me!
My cherry lips have often kiss’d thy stones,
Thy stones with lime and hair knit up in thee.

PYRAMUS:

I see a voice; now will I to the chink,
To spy an I can hear my Thisby’s face.
Thisby!

THISBY:

My love! thou art my love, I think.

PYRAMUS:

O, kiss me through the hole of this vile wall.

THISBY:

I kiss the wall’s hole, not your lips at all.

At First Glance: Thisby and Pyramus mourn their separation. Thisby often kisses the rocks in the wall, and after hearing one another, the two lovers attempt to kiss through a hole in the mortar.

Pay Attention To: “thy stones”; “lime and hair knit up in thee”; “I kiss the wall’s hole”; the fact that the wall is an actual guy standing on stage

Try This On for Size: Umm, my cherry lips have often kissed thy stones?!

Modern Musical Approximation:

To the windowww,

To the wall!

- Lil’ Jon and the East Side Boyz, Get Low

7. Swordplay: Romeo and Juliet, Act V, Scene 3

Context: Discovering Romeo dead in her burial chamber, Juliet decides to take her own life.

Text:

JULIET:

Yea, noise? Then I’ll be brief. O happy dagger!
[Snatches Romeo’s dagger.]
This is thy sheath; there rest, and let me die.

At First Glance: Dagger, meet heart. Heart, dagger.

Pay Attention To: the fact that Romeo’s “dagger” is “happy”; the fact that death is a known metaphor for sexual climax

Try This On for Size: I want to die on Romeo’s happy dagger.

Modern Musical Approximation:

Oh I, I just died in your arms tonight
It must’ve been some kind of kiss
I should’ve walked away, I should’ve walked away

- Cutting Crew, (I Just) Died in Your Arms

8. Capital Offense: Twelfth Night, Act II, Scene 5

Context: Malvolio is reading a letter and thinks he recognizes the handwriting.

Text:

MALVOLIO:
By my life, this is my lady’s hand: these be her very
C’s, her U’s, and her T’s; and thus makes she her great P’s.

At First Glance: Yup, these are my lady’s C’s, U’s, T’s, and P’s alright.

Pay Attention To: the fact that the “and” in “and her T’s” would be pronounced like the letter “n”; the spelling of certain four-letter words; the pronunciation of “her great P’s”

Try This On for Size: These are her cees, ues, ‘n tees – and thus makes she her great pees.

Modern Musical Approximation:

All of the boys and all of the girls are begging to if you seek Amy

- Britney Spears, If U Seek Amy

18 thoughts on “8 of Shakespeare’s Hidden Dirty Jokes (And their Modern Music Equivalents)

  1. What about Hamlet to Ophelia? He makes much ado about ‘nothing’ — which is what a woman has between her legs — and puns oh-so-rudely on ‘country matters’.

    HAMLET
    Lady, shall I lie in your lap?

    Lying down at OPHELIA’s feet

    OPHELIA
    No, my lord.

    HAMLET
    I mean, my head upon your lap?

    OPHELIA
    Ay, my lord.

    HAMLET
    Do you think I meant country matters?

    OPHELIA
    I think nothing, my lord.

    HAMLET
    That’s a fair thought to lie between maids’ legs.

    OPHELIA
    What is, my lord?

    HAMLET
    Nothing.

  2. Part of the title of this is “Hidden Dirty Jokes”
    Though quite dirty, the innuendo in this part is certainly not hidden. It’s blatantly obvious.

  3. Where is Othello? Iago’s comments about Othello and Desdemona certainly deserve some rating. There are many. Even his conversation with Desdemona as they are waiting for Othello to arrive in Cyprus can be examined closely.

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  5. When Shakespeare writes it is considered “Hidden dirty Jokes.” When Larry Flint Hugh Heffner makes a magazine about it it is considered porn. Smut is not only in the eye of the beholder but also who writes and how eloquently it is written. This changeth my mind not in matters of Shakespeare.

  6. What about Lady Macbeth to Macbeth, when urging him to behave in a manly fashion:
    Screw your courage to the sticking place, and we’ll not fail.
    Archery? Or another sporting activity?

  7. While hardly hidden, I personally enjoy the banter exchanged between Katherine and Petruccio in “Taming of the Shrew”

    “Asses are made to bear and so are you”

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  9. Katherine and Petruccio in “Taming of the Shrew”

    Katherine “Asses are made to bear and so are you”
    Petruccio “Women are made to bear, and so are you”
    PETRUCHIO
    Who knows not where a wasp does
    wear his sting? In his tail.

    KATHARINA
    In his tongue.

    PETRUCHIO
    Whose tongue?

    KATHARINA
    Yours, if you talk of tails: and so farewell.

    PETRUCHIO
    What, with my tongue in your tail? nay, come again,
    Good Kate; I am a gentleman.

    KATHARINA
    That I’ll try.

    She strikes him

    PETRUCHIO
    I swear I’ll cuff you, if you strike again.
    “that being mad herself, she’s madly mated”

    A friend and I were just dicussing this, and I thought it deserved to be shared openly.
    “cuff you” —-now that’s just awesome

  10. OH MY GOSH!
    We are in year ten english class and it is amazing what people can come up with when they are horny

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  12. Hey guys,
    just in case you haven’t noticed; there is a mistake with the Sonnet.

    It’s Sonnet 135.

  13. In “Hamlet” act 2, scene 2. The men describe their “Fortune” as if it were a woman.

    GUILDENSTERN: Happy in that we are not overhappy. On Fortune’s cap, we are not the very button.

    HAMLET: Nor the soles of her shoe?

    ROSENCRANTZ: Neither, my Lord.

    HAMLET: Then you live about her waist, or the in the middle of her favors?

    GUILDENSTERN: Faith, her privates we.

    HAMLET: In the secret parts of Fortune? O, most true! She is a strumpet. What news?

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