The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0166 Thursday, 27 January 2005
From: Abigail Quart <
Date: Thursday, 27 Jan 2005 02:50:44 -0500
According to Richard A. Spears' dictionary of Slang and Euphemism, "to
lark" is "to masturbate; to practise penilingus." But "larking" is
defined as "irumation" which is "to suck" leading to a possible meaning
of fellatio and/or cunnilingus.
He defines "gate" as "the female genitals, specifically the vulva."
"Heaven," however, isn't recorded as a reference to female genitalia
until the 1800s.
Frankie Rubinstein's A Dictionary of Shakespeare's Sexual Puns and Their
Significance defines "lark," the noun, as "prostitute." Then she notes
another instance of Shakespeare referring to "heaven's gate" in Cymbeline:
"Hark, hark! the lark at heaven's gate sings,/ And Phoebus 'gins
arise..." (Note the link to "arise," "arising" here as well as in Sonnet
29. Morning. A man. Whatever could be arising?) Rubinstein here says:
"This lyric, however lovely, is sung by the despicable Cloten, and perh.
we ought not to forget how he introduces it: he desires 'to give
her[Imogen]music' because 'they say it will penetrate', and he tells the
musicians,' if you can penetrate her with your fingering[intimate
caresses], so; we'll try with tongue too." ...Rubinstein also writes
that "heavenly" refers to homosexual love based on references in Plato
who distinguished it from common or heterosexual love. So, since a young
man was playing the part of Imogen, the line likely referred not only to
Imogen's vulva but the boy's penis and anus.
PS: Does anyone else think that Sonnet 30 looks like a bad first draft
of Sonnet 29?
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