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Filthy Shakespeare: Shakespeare's Most Outrageous Sexual Puns Paperback – Oct 7 2008

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Avery; Reprint edition (Oct. 7 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1592404014
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592404018
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.3 x 19.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 222 g
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #501,701 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

It's a universal truth: sex sells. Giving the audience what they wanted in the 16th century, however, meant veiling it with puns, bon mots, slang and other tricks; fortunately, Shakespeare scholar Kiernan (Shakespeare's Theory of Drama) has taken the mystery out of the Bard's deceptively graphic passages in these frank translations from some of his most popular plays. Because most students read whitewashed versions (or because most high school instructors don't want to go there), even fans may be unaware of the degree to which, for instance, Iago (Shakespeare's "filthiest-minded character") employs sexually loaded language to rouse Roderigo's murderous lust in Act 5 of Othello: "Quick, quick, fear nothing... and fix most firm thy resolution" seems innocuous enough until Kiernan reveals that "nothing" means "vagina" and "resolution" means "balls." These blush-inducing transcripts render Shakespeare's work instantly contemporaneous; as it turns out, just the title of Much Ado About Nothing is easily as vulgar as anything uttered by gross-out moviemakers the Ferrelly brothers. Divided into chapters on lesbianiasm, homosexuality, virginity, sexual diseases, impotency, whores, pimps, brothels and other topics that shall here remain nameless, this jaw-dropping, giggle-inducing text proves both the Bard's enduring relevance and the fact that today's popular entertainment isn't nearly as debased as some might think.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


'... you will find Filthy Shakespeare great fun.' Times Literary Supplement 'Back when you were studying the Bard at school, who knew the hidden sexual innuendos within his works! This new book has unearthed loads of them.' Company Magazine 'There's a lot of talk about culture getting coarser nowadays, but those Elizabethans - they really knew how to talk dirty. Apparently every single one of Iago's 1,070 lines in Othello contains a sexual pun. Pauline Kiernan ... obligingly translates the smuttiest scenes so that we can appreciate the full extent of the smirkathon. It's fascinating ...' The Guardian 'Filthy Shakespeare: Shakespeare's Most Outrageous Sexual Puns' piles ingenuity on scholarship to make the bard bawdier.' Daily Telegraph 'A thoroughly respectable academic slums it with this gloss on bum jokes, not to mention all sorts of other sexual practices and body parts. Once you get past the giggles, a convincing introduction makes a good case for the centrality of bawdy wordplay throughout the culture of the time, showing how the raw realities of Elizabethan and Jacobean London made audiences immediately able to decipher the double entendres and puns of the plays.' Scotland on Sunday (Review) 5th November 2006 `A work of scholarship dressed up, with brilliant design, as titillation' The Spectator "Glorious ... a beautifully presented guide to Elizabethan filth" Stephen Bayley, Observer Book of the Year --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xa57c2720) out of 5 stars 17 reviews
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa62c93a8) out of 5 stars FIVE STARS Nov. 2 2007
By CB - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The great strength of Filthy Shakespeare is that is has been written by a Shakespeare scholar who is also a dramatist. Dr. Kiernan shows that Shakespeare often used sexual puns as a serious dramatic device for important issues such as morality, politics, and war. Some of the best parts of the book are where she demonstrates how Shakespeare used sexual puns to intensify the the dramatic impact of the scene. The introduction which describes the social and political world of the playwright is excellent. This is an important book. It will be appreciated not just by playgoers and readers of the plays but by all Shakespeare actors and directors.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa62c93fc) out of 5 stars Remember - Context is Everything Jan. 29 2012
By Daryl - Published on
Format: Paperback
God what a hot mess this book was. You can tell by the way this was edited that there was absolutely zero intention for this to ever a. be anything other than an impulse buy and b. be read from cover to cover. Sometimes the same information WORD FOR WORD is repeated in chapters. For example - bits and pieces from the introduction were copy pasted to the blurbs at the end of any given chapter. That's just lazy with a capital L if you ask me. I think the intention here was to write a book where people would open to the table of contents, browse until they found their vice of choice, then read that chapter and never pick up the book again until they were cleaning out their book shelves.

In addition to the incredibly annoying repetitious bits, some of the research and conjectures Kiernan makes about certain slang is questionable to say the least, and at times doesn't seem to be supported when context is added back into the equation. And while I certainly agree with her that there are many sexual innuendos that frequently get overlooked or edited out of certain Shakespearean productions, to simply go back and say "screw it - let's just call shenanigan's on all of it" isn't good either.

Over all I feel like this would be a good book for those who enjoy compilations of unusual trivia, or for people who are having a hard time getting into Shakespeare and would like some ideas for new approaches to his texts to get them interested again. For anybody looking for something approaching good editing, solid research and quality reading material pass on.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa62c9834) out of 5 stars You wicked little playwright, you! Feb. 20 2009
By Alice in Wondland - Published on
When you go to see a Shakespearean play, you will often see a staid, rather dignified production, performed by serious and stuffy actors. However, if you could travel back in time to the turn of the seventeenth century, you would find the theatre located in a notorious red light district, with the audience filled with drunk and semi-drunk yahoos. You would see the audience roaring with laughter, nudging each other as actors spouted off various lines. What did they see that we don't?

Well, the fact is that Shakespeare's plays are filled with sexual puns, innuendoes and plays-on-words that the contemporary audiences got, but whose meanings have generally become lost. In this wonderful book, author and historian of the Bard on Avon, Dr Pauline Kiernan, goes through all of the little dirty jokes, giving the original Elizabethan passage, and then translating them into modern English.

Now, as you might expect from an Oxford educated professor, she does use English slang words instead of American words, but you will have no problem discerning the meanings from the context. I found this to be a very interesting and enlightening book. Who knew just how wicked old William actually was! If you want to see Shakespeare from a different angle than the one you were taught in school, then get this book!

(Review of Filthy Shakespeare: Shakespeare's Most Outrageous Sexual Puns)
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa62c97b0) out of 5 stars A Stretch March 18 2014
By Amy Leigh Strickland - Published on
Shakespeare wrote a lot of very dirty puns, but the ones I find in this book always seem like a stretch and make little sense in the context of the play. He takes incredibly dramatic moments, tense moments no experienced playwright would ever spoil with a joke, and turns those famous lines into nothing but potty humor. I expect filth to be hiding all over the comedic moments of the plays, but these over-the-top translations helped me find very few of those. In very few places did I find useful interpretations. The pages on Hamlet skip over the obvious ("Lady, shall I lie in your lap?") and fight to force other parts into the Filthy Shakespeare mold.

I also don't like how it's organized, having to flip to the index to track down all of the sections about one particular play. It's not really useful in that way. It's clearly meant for a casual reader with no serious intent.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By bgarfink - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is a way cool book.

Yes, it's a bit over the top, but it's also an introduction to the subject, and it doesn't pretend to be comprehensive, either.

Dr. Freud would have had a field day in Shakespeare's London. As did Shakespeare. I never dreamed there were so many layers of meaning in Shakespeare's texts. I knew about a few of these examples, but I never realized quite how explicit some of the sonnets were. In fact, this book would have helped me write my document [dissertation, only shorter], only I didn't discover it until I was done.

Way to go, Dr. Kiernan!