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Filthy Shakespeare: Shakespeare's Most Outrageous Sexual Puns
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Filthy Shakespeare: Shakespeare's Most Outrageous Sexual Puns

3.73  ·  Rating Details ·  265 Ratings  ·  63 Reviews
Celebrating the Bard in all his bawdy glory, an eminent scholar puts the spotlight on the down-and-dirty sexual puns lurking in Shakespeare?s work.

Everyone knows of his matchless understanding of the human condition, but we have been deprived for centuries of the full extent of one of Shakespeare?s most brilliant dramatic devices. Restoring the saucy, often shocking meani
Paperback, 304 pages
Published October 7th 2008 by Avery (first published January 1st 2006)
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Community Reviews

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Jan 30, 2008 Tori rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Finally finished. Despite its minimal word count, this took awhile to read because it got boring and repetitive. Okay--so every word has a double (sexual) meaning. Some seemed far-fetched, others didn't really need explaining as the double meaning is still clear today, and a few were eye-openers. I had some long-standing questions about the lyrics of a few Steeleye Span songs answered, and I will never look at the song "Pop Goes the Weasel" the same way again. (It was like when I learned the ori ...more
Apr 01, 2009 Michel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Michel by: Judy
Shelves: lit, shorts, lang
The blurb says bawdy, hilarious, insightful. Two outa three ain't bad (Meatloaf, if you're old enough to recognize the quote).
Bawdy, yeah, and Kiernan calls a spade a spade, and other instruments by their name too; insightful is an understatement, and reading the 'decoded' text opens up incredible avenues. Food for thought really, and insight into sex and the sexes, genders and orientation, which help understand not only Elizabethan times but also our own.
If we take today's euphemism, for instan
*snerk* Everyone needs to be able to talk filthy in Elizabethean slang. This book is an excellent reference.

It presents passages from the Bard with a glossary and a modern translation - though often reading the original with the glossary is far more satisfying than the translations, many of which devolve into meaningless strings of "vagina", "fuck" and "cunt".

The most interesting parts of this book are actually the explanatory text. The author provides lots of history of the passages being edit
Michelle (In Libris Veritas)
At first I enjoyed the concept of this novel, it was funny and enlightening at points. But after getting a few sections into it it became hard not to think that the author was grasping for straws. As she said in the beginning it's important to know when the double meanings come into play, and I don't really think she's got that quite down to a practice yet. Because some of this are so outrageous they just don't make any sort of contextual sense at all...
It is a goofy read, so I recommend it for
The basic gist of this book, written by a British Shakespeare scholar, is that Shakespeare's work is absolutely loaded with bawdy sleight-of-hand wordplay that his audience understood but that modern audiences miss amid all of the other archaic language and the boring, Victorian way that Shakespeare is usually taught in schools. Accordingly, the book largely consists of obscene scene fragments from various plays "translated" into modern English.

First, let me say this: if this aspect of Shakespe
Al Bità
Oct 30, 2010 Al Bità rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Title says it well enough: people sensitive to some of the coarser words in the English Language should wear polaroid sunglasses... (A minor example: Shakespeare's name itself is a double pun: Will (willy) = 'penis', and Spear (also is a pun for the male member) so Shake-Spear 'implies' masturbator...: So 'Will Shakespeare' = 'penis masturbator'...)

This is truly an eye-opening book, funny as well as dirty, which is most revealing about the times and mores of Elizabethan England in Shakespear
Dec 13, 2010 Kitty rated it did not like it
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 con ...more
May 09, 2012 LeAnn rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Shakespeare fans
This book is difficult to review, especially as I read through large parts of it a while ago. It isn't the sort of book meant to be read from cover to cover (hence the noted repetition in other reviews), but something a reader picks up and puts down as the whim moves her. Perhaps that's why it got to be over the top for me, leaving me a little nauseous and Shakespeare tainted. While it's true that as I've gotten older and seen more Shakespeare performances that I've picked up a lot more on the d ...more
Kiernan's book has something for both bardolator and filthy perv. The appendix alone with its alphabetical listing of the hundreds of Elizabethan synonyms for the genitals and the sex act is worth taking a look at. And Kiernan's bardcore translations of Shakespeare will make you stop and rethink much of what you've read in the past. However, at times I think the author herself has "a wit of cheveril that stretches from an inch narrow to an ell broad" as some of her paraphrases really stretch way ...more
The book lives up to its name: it is very filth, and definitely not for the faint of heart. Shakespeare scholar Kiernan gives a comprehensive introduction to the treatment of different sexual topics in Elizabethan England before moving into passages from most (32) of the Bard's plays and breaking them down with translations included. Many of the passages were already familiar to me, but many others were very new and fresh. Kiernan's frank discussion is a great read for anyone who wants to really ...more
Jan 13, 2008 Andrew rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Thespians
Shelves: humor
The notion that Shakespeare disguised a large volume of sexual references in his plays is intriguing, to a point. The first few chapters explains the author's view that much of the language used by Shakespeare referred to crude sex and that the audiences of that time recognized the puns and references. I guess it makes sense, but all of the examples in the later chapters get boring. I'll see if I feel differently the next time I go to a Shakespeare play.
Jun 22, 2008 Tina rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008
Okay, while I do believe that The Bard had his moments of base vulgarity, I don't believe everything that is in this book. It's written more for shock value, and for how many times the words "fuck" and "cunt" can be used. Taken as written, then Shakespeare was the Andrew Dice Clay of the Elizabethan world. Unless you want to roll your eyes at the depths of depravity that this person claims are in the plays, don't bother. I just didn't find it credible.
Jun 04, 2008 Nancy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
In truth, I expected more from a PhD. Footnotes and citation, documentation and proof. It's been a while since I've touched this book, and there was some good information in it (mostly more examples of the more obvious puns). Some of her connections seemed more like wishful thinking than actual intended or proven double meanings.

An "okay" read, but in the end, disappointing, especially as much as I love Shakespeare.

Nicole Craswell
Definitely entertaining but I have to say a lot of the translations seem like they're reaching in the "filthy" aspects. Random references to sex and genitals are added in seemingly arbitrarily.

It's a fun thing to have and mildly interesting if you like Shakespeare but I don't think it's anything to take too seriously.
i can't believe i read this. it's a combinaton of utter genius & complete crap...but i can't decide which one is the right one.
T.C. Mill
Jun 09, 2017 T.C. Mill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I belong to the small but significant subsection of Bardoloters who like to write erotic fanfiction of Shakespeare's works, and to do that it really helps to know the slashy subtext. This book is delightful and invaluable.
Nov 01, 2009 Mateo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As it turns out, every single word that Shakespeare wrote is a sexual pun. Not just a sexual pun, but a coarse jape designed to make third-graders snigger. Or so it might seem after you've read Filthy Shakespeare, Pauline Kiernan's lively and learned selection of some of Shakespeare's best, most obscure, or misunderstood dirty passages. You'll rarely have a chance to read such a collection of obscenity with such high purpose; this is definitely the kind of book you want to leave open on a kitche ...more
Nov 17, 2008 Paula rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I will never read Shakespeare the same way; I wish I had this book to reference when I took my Shakespeare class as an undergraduate, as I might have read the plays more closely.

This book certainly is not for the faint of heart, since Kiernan's translations are literal so as to be understandable (so not using archaic clinical terms but ones with which we're familiar). It also, on the other hand, is not comprehensive, since Kiernan writes that whole books can be written on just the use of double-
Dec 30, 2010 Kate rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own
This really is a 3.5 in my world. Shakespeare was a talented writer, we all know this, but we tend to forget to read the layers. We also lose a lot of understanding because we forget that certain words meant different things back then. Shakespeare's plays entertained audience of varying wealth and class standings, so not only did he have to keep the rich entertained with elevated writing but he had to entertain those in the pits with in jokes and hilarity. Everyone laughs, whether aloud or no, a ...more
This book is SO not PG. The bard was a bawd...this book was almost uncomfortable to read as I thought about how many times I've read Shakespeare, either by myself or with schoolchildren for god's sake, and never realized how freaking dirty everything is. Seemingly innocent phrases like "There is something rotten in the state of Denmark" is not nearly that innocent (basically, Denmark is a syphilitic turd). In an era where syphilis was rampant, prostitution was at every corner, and everyone under ...more
I think I just learned more about Shakespeare then I ever wanted to know. I can't believe I read it (even though I didnt even read all of it) I mean, (thankfully I didnt buy it) but come on! I guess bad language should have been expected, but this was just full of it. I've only read two books by Shakespeare in my high school English classes (Romeo and Juliet and The Merchant of Venice; both really great by the way) so I was mainly just going to check out the ones about those two books (Ahhh Merc ...more
Aug 06, 2015 Jayna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literati
Yes, if you are a student of Shakespeare you should read this. Although, many of the puns may be Kiernan digging, and her explanations would need further support in any academic setting, it is overall important to consider the various nuances of language in Shakespeare's body of work. That being said, sometimes lips are just lips and not labial folds, and sometimes the double entendre is not there at all. Additionally, though many scenes may be homoerotic if read through that lens, it is still p ...more
Nov 19, 2012 Ramona rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I must say this book well lives up to it's name! If your highly moral I'd not recommend this read, it's basically erotica, with a sarcastic bent! But for the history buff who understands how religion effected and censored, many a masterpiece as well as inspiring them. It is refreshing to read what is the true wit and complexity of the man we consider the Bard. Shakespears era is often perceived through the reading of Romeo & Juliet, tender flowery language and verses of love. This book shows ...more
The cache of typos in the introduction aside, reading this was quite fun. For a while, anyway. Eventually, it felt a little redundant and like the author was going for some painfully obvious examples (though The Bard's less popular plays do get more attention than usual, which was neat). I just couldn't help but feel like there was a better way to organize this book to give it a little more original thought and depth.

Still, it's about Shakespeare's fondness for and adept inclination toward the n
Dec 02, 2015 Jaclyn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author says in the introduction that sometimes a rose is just a rose and sometimes a rose is a woman's privates. She must have forgotten that when she got to her 'translations' of the scenes she chose to highlight; some of them are just ridiculous and over the top, some of them seem likely, many are familiar, few are enlightening about sex jokes in Shakespeare's time.

If I just picked this up for fun and didn't have half a bookcase dedicated to Shakespeare studies I'd probably have believed
Timothy Tobolski
Feb 14, 2012 Timothy Tobolski rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've known for decades that Shakespeare was a randy bastard, just as I've known that many of his barbs cut far deeper than our modern language ever could. But I'll be honest: I never knew exactly how bawdy he could be.

Just about every play and every sonnet he wrote was laden with heavy innuendo. Embarrassing innuendo. Seriously, this is a book I dare not read when my children are present for fear they might peek over my shoulder. I'm no prude by any extent of the imagination, but, wow, I caught
Seamus Thompson
Aug 20, 2012 Seamus Thompson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bar none, the most delightfully filthy book I have ever read. Kiernan's "translation" of Sonnet 135 (revealing a host of sexual puns) is worth reading if nothing else.

As fun and smutty as this book is it is also filled with some essential insights into Shakespeare's plays and characters. Her observations about the link between Hamlet's treatment of Gertrude and Ophelia (particularly as revealed in the "get thee to a nunnery" speech) have greatly deepened my understanding of a play I have loved
Rena Sherwood
Sep 23, 2014 Rena Sherwood rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
It's filthy. It's Shakespeare. Just like it promises. And oh BOY does it deliver!


Should be required reading (for extra credit) in all high school/college/university Shakespeare 101 classes. And I'll guarantee you this -- if nothing else, you'll never look at archery the same way again.

Nov 20, 2011 Dave rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is something of a novelty book, taking Shakespeare's dirtiest passages and translating them into dirty, modern English. Chapters include "Pertaining to Fucking" and "Pertaining to Cunnilingus."

Beneath the shock value, though (and trust me, there's some shock value), it's got a scholarly backing and a worthy calling: to accept that Shakespeare could be both high and low simultaneously, and that Elizabethan England was far from the world's most refined era.

Surprisingly enjoyable.
Apr 18, 2013 Androo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent companion to anyone's Shakespeare shelf in their home collection. Filthy Shakespeare provides not only some of the most raunchiest of sexual puns in Shakespeare's plays (making you reconsider some of the scenes from your obligatory reading of Romeo and Juliet in high school) but also provides some brief insights of history and culture of Elizabethan England.
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