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“Break It in Your Face, so He Break It Not Behind” On Shakespeare’s Toilet Puns and Their Romanian Translations

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“Break It in Your Face, so He Break It Not Behind” On Shakespeare’s Toilet Puns and Their Romanian Translations

“For all his admiration and even imitation of Rabelais, Shakespeare has hardly once or twice burnt so much as a stray pinch of fugitive incense on the altar of Cloacina,” notes Algernon Charles Swinburne poetically on the playwright’s toilet humor. Sixty years later, Eric Partridge, author of the seminal Shakespeare’s Bawdy, would reiterate, along much the same lines, the dramatist’s alleged contempt for the crudest of all manifestations of wit. Since then, however, scholarly attitudes toward crude humor have gradually become more lenient and inquisitive about what we perceive today as instances of off-colour wordplay, challenging linguistic myths about their anachronic attribution and devoting book-length studies to them. This article follows several of the Bard’s most obvious and obscure puns on the podex and flatulence in an attempt to ascertain whether Romanian translators have aligned themselves with this phenomenon or, if not, how they approach this form of Shakespearean wit.

Keywords: humour, off-colour, pun, Romanian, Shakespeare, toilet, translation, wordplay

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