Want to spice things up this Valentine's Day? Forget flowers and chocolate -- a soliloquy just might do the trick. After all, William Shakespeare isn't known as the "Bawdy Bard" for nothing. Kim Askew and I -- we're the authors of the new Shakespeare-inspired YA novels Exposure and Tempestuous -- have 15 reasons he still reigns supreme in the dictums of debauchery. And who knows? You might just learn a thing or two.
1. "Is this a dagger... or are you just happy to see me?"
Those ubiquitous daggers and swords in Shakespeare are manly weapons in more ways than one, if you get our phallic drift. (Frankly, anything pointy in his plays should "arouse" your suspicion, including "Cupid's fiery shaft" in A Midsummer Night's Dream.)
2. More pelvic-thrusting than The Thunder Down Under
When staged, Shakespeare's ribald jokes tend to come in tandem with unabashed pelvic undulations from over-exuberant thespians who, for better or for worse, make Elvis's gyrations look downright puritanical. C'mon, guys, we "get it" already!
3. X-rated double entendres
Those most fluent in Elizabethan English can vouch for the fact that the Bard's lines are extremely licentious once you figure out what it actually means "to raise a spirit in his mistress' circle" or "hide [a] bauble in a hole."
4. Men in codpieces and ample-bosomed wenches.
5. Those fairies and sprites are some kinky creatures.
Ever get the sense that Shakespeare's scantily-clad, supernatural characters are busy engaging in crazy non-stop orgies in the forest when they're not having a laugh at the expense of the humans they come across? Just us, then? Huh.
7. All the kids are doing it!
Ah, young love. Juliet Capulet was a mere 13 years old when she did her "amorous rites" with Romeo, who, presumably, wasn't too much older than she.
Did Hamlet have the hots for his mom? English professors speculate as much, given his frankly disconcerting obsession with Gertrude's sex life. (Laurence Olivier started it, but Mel Gibson and Glenn Close went there too, and then some, in the 1990 film .)
9. Like a Virgin?
Shakespeare apparently did. Ophelia's virginity has been the subject of much debate among scholars and she even sings a song about losing her virginity: "Let in the maid, that out a maid never departed more." And, of course, we already mentioned the practically pre-pubescent Juliet.
10. Best. Euphemisms. Ever.
"The beast with two backs" (Othello) ... "Groping for trout in a peculiar river" (Measure for Measure) . .. "puppets dallying" (Hamlet). Schoolboys have been snickering over this stuff for centuries.
11. Even his titles were dirty!
In the Bard's day and age, "nothing" was slang for a certain lady part, giving the title Much Ado About Nothing an extra nudge-nudge, wink-wink meaning.
12. Bestiality? Sorta.
Titania, the fairy queen in A Midsummer Night's Dream, has the hots for a donkey-headed Bottom, and while they don't explicitly do the deed in the play, that's probably only because even Shakespeare had to draw the line somewhere.
13. Cross-dressing, and lots of it.
Shakespeare embraced gender-bending long before drag queens and Iggy Pop made it cool. Heroines pretend to be men in As You Like It, Twelfth Night, and The Merchant of Venice (among others), which was way more scandalous in Shakespearean times than the men donning dresses to portray his ladies on stage.
14. He dabbles in S&M, too!
Who needs Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey playing "submissive" and "dominant" when you've got Katherina and Petruchio from The Taming of the Shrew? We're not sure what they were getting up to in the bedroom, but with banter like, "I swear I'll cuff you, if you strike again," well... whips and riding crops may have factored in.
15. He's a most highbrow purveyor of smut.
It's lewd and crude, but the fact that it's "Shake-speeyah!" makes it okay for kids, nuns, and puritanical librarians to wholeheartedly embrace the literary porn. You don't need a brown paper cover when you're reading the greatest writer of all time!