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 under and above (as innuendos)

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Posts : 50
Join date : 2017-10-24

PostSubject: under and above (as innuendos)   Wed 03 Jan 2018, 06:28

Hello and HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL!! Smile 

I've found two lines of Ben Jonson's Epicoene whose meaning I cannot understand:

Quote :
boy: I am the welcomest thing under a man that comes there.
clerimont: I think, and above a man too, if the truth were racked out of you.

My problem is with the allusion tha surely hiddes under those "under" and "above". Neither I see the point of "racking out" of the boy any truth (what truth?), if "rack out" actually means "torturing"…

I am really sure you can help me this with that impasse.

Thanks to all in advance,

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Nobiles Barbariæ

Posts : 6081
Join date : 2011-12-25

PostSubject: Re: under and above (as innuendos)   Wed 03 Jan 2018, 07:38

Hi CM and happy new year to you also.

This sounds like standard "buggery" innuendo to me, nothing cleverer than that. The "truth be racked out of you" is just "if the truth be known" said with colourful emphasis.

Innuendo, in literature as in life, is often used to passively/aggressively undermine the character of its target, in this case directly by Clerimont to "Boy".
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Meles meles

Posts : 3352
Join date : 2011-12-30
Location : Pyrénées-Orientales, France

PostSubject: Re: under and above (as innuendos)   Wed 03 Jan 2018, 10:42

I know we said to keep with just one thread but I'll just quickly tack this in here:

The exchange is full of slightly salacious innuendo, double-meaning and punning, besides the straight-forward jokey reference to buggery, .... the full quote, which appears right at the very opening of the play, is:

CLER: Have you got the song yet perfect, I gave you, boy?
PAGE: Yes, sir.
CLER: Let me hear it.
PAGE: You shall, sir, but i'faith let nobody else.
CLER: Why, I pray?
PAGE: It will get you the dangerous name of a poet in town, sir; besides me a perfect deal of ill-will at the mansion you wot of, whose lady is the argument of it; where now I am the welcomest thing under a man that comes there.
CLER: I think, and above a man too, if the truth were rack'd out of you.
PAGE: No, faith, I'll confess before, sir. The gentlewomen play with me, and throw me on the bed; and carry me in to my lady; and she kisses me with her oil'd face; and puts a peruke on my head; and asks me an I will wear her gown? and I say, no: and then she hits me a blow o' the ear, and calls me Innocent! and lets me go.
CLER: No marvel if the door be kept shut against your master, when the entrance is so easy to you—well sir, you shall go there no more, lest I be fain to seek your voice in my lady's rushes, a fortnight hence. Sing, sir.
PAGE [SINGS]: Still to be neat, still to be drest

The whole play ('Epicoene, or The Silent Woman', to give its full title), is about ambiguous sexual identities and how sex can be used to control men. It concerns a man named Dauphine who creates a scheme to get his inheritance from his uncle Morose (who cannot abide noise) by getting Morose betrothed in marriage to Epicoene, a boy disguised as a 'silent' woman. At the end Epicoene is revealed to be a boy (and a noisy, garrulous, nagging, shrew-like one at that), and so the marriage is abandoned ... and two of the characters, the rather dim knights Draw and Foole, are embarrassed and shamed as either liars or perverts, as they both previously claimed to have slept with her/him.

'Epicoene' was first performed over Christmas 1609/10 by the 'Blackfriars Children', also known as the 'Children of the Queen's Revels', or 'The Children of the Chapel Royal', who were a group of boy players providing Court entertainments as well as being choristers for the Royal Chapel. One wonders what King James I made of the play, as he was reknowned for favouring young men as his close associates, who, so it was widely rumoured, were more than just friends.
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