A series of student essays in response to the above.
I like the discussion of double entendre and sexual allusion in this one
It is said that Butterworth’s ‘Jerusalem’ has irrefutable references to Shakespeare and cultural literary heritage. Like Shakespeare, Butterworth also makes crude and yet humorous sexual innuendos alongside profanities, the only difference being Shakespeare’s are subtler. Furthermore, Johnny and Ginger resemble characters from Shakespeare work and resemble what ‘real Englishness’ truly means.
Whilst the language in ‘Jerusalem’ is so clearly offensive, the rudeness in Shakespeare’s plays are often overlooked or misunderstood. Throughout ‘Jerusalem’ we hear Byron and his battalion of “rats” utter all kinds of crude words. From a simple “bloody” to a more aggressive “cunt”, the characters in this play feel more than happy enough to speak with such colour. One might expect that Shakespeare plays, ones that have been approved by a Queen and now taught in schools, to contain no sexual innuendos or profanities at all. This is not the case. His plays were littered with various comments hat often go unnoticed. In arguably Shakespeare’s most famous work, Hamlet, we see the mad Prince make a racy comment concerning Ophelia and some “country matters”. In writing one would think nothing of this comment, however, phonetically it is clear that “country” is implied to replicate the word “cunt”. Shakespeare used profanities, the only problem being: our language has evolved. The same words that were considered ‘rude’ in Shakespeare’s time no longer hold the same context or meaning. We now live in a world full of “fucks”, “shits”, “cunts” and so on. Both Shakespeare and Butterworth use swear words to depict what the real world is like. People swear, especially the English. This has been part of English culture for centuries. In Henry IV we see the female anatomy being disguised as a “Pie-corner” and again “pie” is used in ‘All’s Well That Ends Well’ to describe the vagina. It is not abnormal that Shakespeare plants subtle sexual innuendoes or oaths that are almost impossible to find unless you know they are there. These jokes or references are only clear for someone of that time. Like in ‘Jerusalem’ with the “Mars Bar” story, only someone who understood the reference to a young and wild Mick Jagger would pick up on it. Shakespeare did the same and wrote for the people of his era.
As well as the free use of profanities and sexual innuendoes, Butterworth and Shakespeare share the same enthusiasm and engagement with the English forest. The woods in Flintock are dangerous and “strange”. From “a rainbow” hitting the “earth and set fire to the ground” to “a young girl…give birth to a baby boy” the forest demonstrates a degree of beauty and magic. The time throughout ‘Jerusalem’ goes ever so slowly and it seems as though the woods are a place outside the realm of ‘civilised’ people. The woods are a completely world altogether. Similarly, Shakespeare’s forest in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ contains magic through the use of fairies. One must draw similarities between the fairies in this play and that of the “May Queen”, Phaedra, dressed as a “fairy” in ‘Jerusalem’. Furthermore, the forest is often seen as a place to escape and find solitude. We see Phaedra “flee” from her arguably abusive stepfather into “Rooster’s Wood”. Again in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ Hermia and Lysander escape into the forest to be alone from the rest of the world. Ginger, Pea, Tanya and the rest of the Flintock misfits come to the forest to experience something they cannot otherwise experience in the ‘real world’. A place where there are no rules, no policemen and nobody judging you is what the woods provide. Despite its danger of a “Werewolf” in ‘Jerusalem’, the forest can provide an element of safety but also riot. After all “What the fuck do you think an English forest is for?”
As well as the language and imagery that have similarities, the characters in ‘Jerusalem’ demonstrate a significant reference to the characters in some of Shakespeare’s most famous plays. Firstly, characters like Pea and Tanya share the same names as Shakespeare character, such as Peaseblossom and Titania from ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. These similarities mustn’t be overlooked and should be seen as a clear reference by Butterworth to English literary heritage and therefore the Pastoral.
However, Johnny can be compared to one Shakespearean character in particular, Falstaff. Much like Rooster, Falstaff creates riot and misrule, something Johnny has an expertise in. Many critics link the character of Falstaff to carnival and the spring festive season. Once again, Johnny is also associated with carnival and is described as “the Flintock Fair”, implying that without him fair day, carnival and riot are not the same.
On the other hand, Ginger also shows characteristics similar to that of Falstaff. He too takes part in riot and misrule, but also stands by Johnny throughout the years; despite the fact Johnny often abuses him verbally. Prince Hal insults Falstaff by calling him a “trunk of humors” or a “bolting-hutch of beastliness”, whilst Johnny tells Ginger “I’m not your friend” and calls him a “rat” regularly. Furthermore, it seems as though all Ginger wants is Johnny’s approval, and that’s the reason he’s stayed with him for so long. All he wants is for Johnny to say” Ginger is a DJ”, and yet Johnny won’t give in. Perhaps Rooster enjoys infuriating Ginger over small things like this or maybe it is friendly ‘banter’. Falstaff also wants approval from Prince Hal, and goes out of his way to impress and obey him. Even Falstaff’s occupation resembles Ginger, after all being a knight means you must obey the orders of the Prince. Similarly, it is Johnny who “winds the siren” and rallies the troops, therefore Ginger is just another one of his soldiers.
In the end, Johnny turns his back on Ginger and says ”We’re not friends” and orders him to leave “Rooster’s Wood”. Again, Falstaff is repudiated by Hal and never earns his approval. This cannot be a coincidence and must be seen as a nod to English heritage and the importance that Shakespeare has had on what it means to be ‘English’
In conclusion, Butterworth has written a play littered with references to the Pastoral, the Golden Age and of course to Shakespeare. It must be said that Shakespeare and his plays have had such an impact on England, so much so that it is still taught in schools today and has shaped the way we speak. I think Butterworth recognizes the importance of Shakespeare and tries to replicate the intrinsic nature of what it means to be ‘English’ in ‘Jerusalem’.