Puns in Shakespeare: “Thou globe of sinful Continents!”
July 7, 2013
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In Henry IV (2) Hal and Poins, in disguise, bust Falstaff in the Tavern, drinking and cavorting with Doll Tearsheet. I love Shakespeare for many reasons, but no one has or ever will pun so well in English. I’ve always loved how Hal greets Falstaff in this scene and very taken in particular with “what a life dost though lead!”, ribbing Falstaff for being a lecherous drunk gormandizer. (Below #A) “Globe of sinful continents” always struck me as funny straight up. It finally struck me that it is actually a double pun, particularly when we think of the two definitions of “continence.” (Below #B). The first pun is ironic, of course, with Doll Tearsheet (Below #3) on his lap. The second definition, though, implies that Hal is also calling Falstaff a fat sack of shit. Funny stuff.
Why, thou globe of sinful continents! what a life
dost thou lead!
Def. 1: self-restraint
; especially :
a refraining from sexual intercourse
Def. 2: the ability to retain a bodily discharge voluntarily <fecal continence>
Look, whether the withered elder hath not his poll
clawed like a parrot.
Is it not strange that desire should so many years