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Analysis: Steaminess Rating

Exactly how steamy is this story?

R

There's a whole lot of sex in this play, but it's not particularly sexy. Here's how Hamlet explains to his mom why she should stop sleeping with her new husband (who is also her brother-in-law): "Nay, but to live / In the rank sweat of an enseamed bed, / Stew'd in corruption, honeying and making love / Over the nasty sty…" (3.4.92.2-95.1). Yuck. 

Hamlet's gross-out take on sexuality also spills over into Hamlet's own romantic relationship, and he says some pretty dirty things to Ophelia. Missed it? Check out our handy-dandy translation of this dialog from Act 3, scene ii (a.k.a. the stuff they don't tell you in English class):

HAMLET
Lady, shall I lie in your lap?
Translation: In public, Hamlet is suggesting that he lie on top of Ophelia, as if they were having sex.

OPHELIA
No, my lord.
Translation: What is wrong with you? Jerk.

HAMLET
I mean, my head upon your lap.
Translation: I just meant I wanted to lay my head on your lap. Why are you getting so worked up?

OPHELIA
Ay, my lord.
Translation: Sigh.

HAMLET
Do you think I meant country matters?
Translation: "Country matters" is slang for sex. Why? Primarily because it plays on the offensive slang "c***," which is built into the word "country." Shakespeare loves this kind of pun. Remind us about how high-culture Shakespeare is, again?

OPHELIA
I think nothing, my lord.
Translation: I'd rather not keep talking about this and I can't acknowledge your sexual innuendo because that would suggest that I, an unmarried maid, know a little too much about sex.

HAMLET
That's a fair thought to lie between maids' legs.
Translation: In Shakespeare's time, "nothing" was another slang word for female genitalia. 

OPHELIA
What is, my lord? 
Translation: Stop messing with me! 

HAMLET
Nothing. 
Translation: "Nothing," i.e. female genitalia, is a good thing to be between girls' legs.

Shakespeare, you sly dog.

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