If music be the food of love, the Bard was Barry Manilow.
By Terry Mooney, Ohio State University
Shakespeare’s mastery of the English language has allowed him to transcend his literary works, and even literature itself, to become an unimpeachable cultural icon.
His influence extends far beyond the classrooms of monotone high school teachers and half-asleep students. However, what many scholars still tend to overlook is the Bard’s inherent womanizing prowess, his mastery of romance and how these aspects of his writing have helped give rise to an entire species of sexually promiscuous young men, known to the women reading this as “douchebags” and to the men as “my friends.” Although you may be skeptical now, analyze the following proof provided for you, and you’ll soon be clamoring with the rest of the converts to crown Shakespeare with the unenviable title of first fuckboy.
Had Shakespeare attended a university, you would’ve undoubtedly found him sneaking out of freshman dorm windows, attempting to seduce his Physics TA and texting your roommate, Kelsey, at three in the morning, “You up?” However, he was not granted this luxury, and thus had to pursue his sexual exploits through the pen, under the guise of a variety of different characters. An instance of this can be observed in his play, “The Merry Wives of Windsor.” Shakespeare employs a technique so ahead of its time in the world of flirting (or courting), that one cannot help but wonder if his plays are actually just hard-to-decipher manuals on how to get laid.
The reader finds the play’s primary antagonist, Falstaff, a loud, obnoxious knight, becoming smitten with two married women of the middle class, Mistress Ford and Mistress Page. So what does Shakespeare have this lonely knight do? Gaze at their beauty from afar? Nope. Battle internally with his morals until eventually choosing to side with good? Try again. Falstaff, under the command of Shakespeare, instead decides to write both women a letter, in an attempt to seduce them. But, here’s the kicker. He uses the same letter. This is the modern day equivalent of typing out a text professing your love to a girl, and then sending it as a group message to her and her best friend. Absolute savagery.
To be fair, the letters don’t work, and Falstaff ends up crying in the woods, repeatedly being burned by children dressed as fairies as the whole town mocks him. However, if you don’t manage to isolate an entire town in your attempts to woo a lady, are you really even trying?
Shakespeare doesn’t stop with the invention of the “group sext,” but, by sharing with readers his mastery of hyperbole, he continues his attempts to teach subsequent generations of sexually inept men how to womanize. To find an example of the Bard’s game, look no further than Shakespeare’s tragedy, “Antony and Cleopatra.” To set the scene, Antony has recently left Rome, and, consequently, the other two triumvirs and his wife, Fulvia, in order to, uh, “take care of business” in Egypt. However, what Caesar is beginning to realize is that “Egypt” really means Cleopatra, and “taking care of business” really means “taking care of business ;).” Therefore, he is rather upset, and sends Antony a letter to Egypt requesting that he return, but Cleo is having none of this. She immediately begins to deride Anthony, before even giving him a chance to open the letter:
“Call in the messengers. As I am Egypt’s queen/Thou blushest, Antony, and that blood of thine/Is Caesar’s homager. Else so thy cheek pays shame/When shrill-tongued Fulvia scolds.”
Quick translation: “You’re either Caesar’s bitch, or you’re Fulvia’s bitch. Regardless, go back to Rome.”
Now, certainly this would be devastating enough to most people’s egos to have sent them packing their bags and catching the next ship to Rome. However, Antony, equipped with the sharp blade of Shakespeare’s piercing sexual deviancy, delivers perhaps the best rebuttal of all time: “Let Rome in Tiber melt and the wide arch/Of the ranged empire fall. Here is my space.”
Woah. He just managed to avoid the inevitable “you have a wife” argument that Cleopatra was about to spring on him, while not only completely denouncing Rome in its entirety, but also welcoming it, and all its inhabitants, to a fiery demise. Talk about turning the tables. At this point, Cleopatra is left utterly speechless, and Antony can now casually retreat to his man cave to crack open a cold one with the boys. Seriously, if you still doubt the sexual mastery of Shakespeare, next time your girlfriend asks you to get her a milkshake, respond with, “Let the milkshakes in McDonald’s melt and the wide, yellow arches of the ranged empire fall. Here is my space.”
Yet still, perhaps Shakespeare’s most impressive sexual achievement is one that transcends all other sexual achievements, making them seem as inconsequential as a kiss on the cheek. In “Richard III,” Shakespeare introduces us to Richard, an evil, conniving man who spends the majority of the novel murdering to get what he wants. Armed with the gift of smooth-talking, Richard is able to convince people to do his bidding by simply appealing to their self-absorbed tendencies with flattery. This is exactly what we see in the following scene between Richard III and Lady Anne, whose husband, Henry, has just been murdered, as Richard attempts to obtain her hand in marriage.
Anne: “And thou unfit for any place but hell.
Richard: “Yes, one place else, if you will hear me name it.”
Anne: “Some dungeon.”
Richard: “Your bedchamber.”
I mean, wow. Just, wow. This might be one of the best one-line pick-up lines ever witnessed by man, and the best part is, I haven’t even told you yet why it’s so good. So, like I said, Lady Anne just recently lost her husband. But, what I didn’t tell you is that Richard decided that the best place for him to attempt to woo Lady Anne, would be right during the middle of the funeral procession. That’s right, Shakespeare didn’t even let poor Henry get six feet under before he started unleashing sexual innuendos on his late wife.
But, hold on, it gets better. Guess how Henry ended up lying silently in a casket, while his wife got seduced at his funeral. Yep, that’s right—Richard killed him. So, essentially what we have here is an instance in which Richard kills a man, goes to his funeral, stops the procession and seduces his wife.
And it works. Lady Anne agrees to marry him, because no one can resist the sexual mind games of the great William Shakespeare. Unfortunately for Lady Anne, yet unsurprisingly, Richard soon has her locked away and killed, which is why the most important lesson that can be taken from this article is not to trust a fuckboy, even if he is William Shakespeare.