Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0425. Thursday, 12 May 1994.
From: Noel Chevalier <CHEVALIE@UREGINA1>
Date: Wednesday, 11 May 94 13:33:16 CST
Subject: Capulet's bawdy joke?
I am just finishing teaching *R & J* to a 3rd-year summer session class, and I
noticed an interesting textual problem. In 1.2, in his speech to Paris,
Capulet brags that
Such comfort as do lusty young men feel
When well-appareled April on the heel
Of limping winter treads, even such delight
Among fresh fennel buds shall you this night
Inherit at my house.
The 1597 quarto--reputedly the "bad" quarto--clearly has "female buds" in this
passage, which would seem to me a nudge-nudge comment to young Paris. The 1599
quarto favours "fennel," while Wells and Taylor's old-spelling edition gets
around the problem by printing "femmel," which leaves the reading ambiguous.
Would it be out of character for Capulet to make such a comment to Paris?
Shouldn't the 1597 reading be accepted? Most modern editions I have consulted
favour "fennel," perhaps on the assumption that the "bad" quarto is universally
corrupt. I welcome further comment on this matter.