Shakespeare’s “Your Mum” Joke | Fit for a Fool

By March 27, 2015 No Comments

Shakespeare manages to get everywhere. Now that’s perhaps not so surprising given the headline story this week of the reburial of Richard III (more on that later), but more bizarrely he popped up in an article on climate change early this week; if you don’t believe me you can check it out here.

The Chairman of GasNaturally, François-Régis Mouton, claimed to be following Shakespeare’s lead on climate change – I bet you didn’t know Shakespeare had a lead to follow on climate change. While he begins with Shakespeare, King Lear and the Duke of Albany’s words to be exact:

In Shakespeare’s King Lear, the Duke of Albany warns that “striving to better, oft we mar what’s well.”

This is then translated and retranslated to fit the argument of Mouton’s pitch. While a body is emerging from Shakespeare, ecocriticism is emerging; some of which indeed does consider the weather and climate of plays like King Lear. This quotation is hardly an example of it, but it does show Shakespeare appearing in unusual climes (sorry) and keeping us on our toes as ever.

Perhaps less bizarre is the second environmental and Shakespearean story of the week. Following the solar eclipse last week, a video emerged of a statue of Shakespeare eclipsed over in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Shakespeare himself had a few lines to say about eclipses, and no I don’t mean any of this ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ business, that’s Bonnie Tyler you’re getting mixed up with. Try King Lear for starters: ‘these late eclipses’ which is uttered of course in apocalyptic manner by Gloucester, whose sight in the play experiences a total eclipse as darkness reigns. If you’re keen to look at eclipses in literature, this quiz is for you. And yes, of course Shakespeare is featured with lines about ‘a huge eclipse’. Why not write in with more eclipse themed lines from Shakespeare, and – if you’re really pushing it – planets and moon lines are also acceptable.

Last week, as you may have been aware, was Shakespeare Week, and as part of this Newsround – a children’s news programme ran a few features on who Shakespeare was, why he was famous, and what we actually know about him – which is of course not really very much at all. It’s an interesting take on this famous playwright and you can see him in a new light and the man who invented words like eyeball, swagger, and of course puking (no not Puck). To see more of this comic kids take on Shakespeare, click here.

Alternatively if you want to have your mind well and truly blown, here is a selection of some of the more unusual facts about Shakespeare, including the perhaps shocking revelation that Shakespeare wrote the first ‘your mum’ joke in the even less likely Titus Andronicus:

Demetrius: Villain, what hast thou done?

Aaron: That which thou canst not undo.

Chiron: Thou hast undone our mother.

Aaron: Villain, I have done thy mother.

Now if that doesn’t make you splutter with amusement over your coffee I don’t know what will!

And now finally to turn to the monarch who’s hit the headlines this week. Nope, not a living one but one who’s been dead for many years. That’s right, Richard III. This week his funeral and reburial took place and the coverage was well, glorifying of the man we perhaps know better as a villain thanks to Shakespeare. Richard himself might dispute that, but, as this song makes clear, much of our knowledge of Richard stems from the fictional writings of history by people like Shakespeare.

The Shakespeare connection also popped up on Twitter, as the character Richard III met his real bony ancestor.

And my personal favourite..

Why not comment below or tweet in your views about Richard III, his reburial, and his Shakespearean depiction.

But that’s all for now folks, until next time keep foolin’ around, Shakespeare style.


Author Sarah Waters

Sarah Waters is a PhD student at Oxford Brookes University, England where she is currently researching female melancholia in the early modern period (as presented in Shakespearean and early modern drama and proto-medical treatises) and contemporary female depression. She is interested in all things Shakespeare related, particularly contemporary Shakespeare adaptation and appropriation.

More posts by Sarah Waters

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