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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: May ::
Q: Capulet's Bawdy Joke
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.
 
Noel Chevalier
 

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