Who is Having Sex in The Roaring Girl? A look at Act 2 Scene 1
The play is about sex, what else can explain
the names given to the characters. Even
before the action starts the reader understands through these names that sex will be a
major theme throughout the play. The Dramatis Personae is a list of names that represent
different sexual characters that will be presented, with the footnotes helping us poor
modern students to understand the puns, Laxton-lack of testicles, Sir Beauteous
Ganymede-the feminine homosexual partner, Gallipot-a Gull or stupid, and then Moll-the
prostitute. The problem with all this is that there seems to be no sex in the play.
Laxton’s relationship with Mistress Gallipot is economic and not sexual, “I know she
cozens her husband to keep me, and I’ll keep her honest as long as I can.”(1371) Later
when she meets with Laxton, for what he thinks will be sex, she fights him and takes his
money. It seems strange that with all the talk of sex, nothing happens. I believe that in
act 2 scene 1 that something does happen between Moll and Mistress Openwork.
When Goshawk is attempting to woo Mistress Openwork their discussion is very
sexual, M-O “I’;; show you mine arms when you please, sir” This is actually her family
crest, but Goshawk replies “ I had rather see your legs, and begin that way.”(1376) Then
she is railing against her husband but includes “I had my Latin tongue, and a spice of the
French,” OK this may be four hundred years ago, but the tongue is very sensual, sexual.
Coupled with a spice of French, now it becomes more sexual with some exotic foreign
imagery brought in to help increase the sexual connotation. Then he whispers something
to her, another close, intimate coming together. Moll cannot keep silent any longer, “I’ll
try one spear against your chastity, mistress Tiltyard, though it prove too short by the
burr.” Now is this miss written for mistress Tiltyard is not in this conversation. I believe
this is pointed toward Mistress Openwork. In class it was presented that this may imply
that Moll has something more that what “normal women have” her spear. This is
brought out in the scene with the Taylor and his hesitancy to measure her for her new
pants. Now one may be lead to believe that she may be a hermaphrodite. Next we have
Moll tripping up Trapdoor to make him a fool and then she states, “I have struck up the
hells of the High German’s size ere now.”(1375) Is this just her tripping up some
German fencer as the foot note indicates or is she just restating what Goshawk is telling
Mistress Openwork on Page1403. He is speaking aside about what he plans to do when
he and Mistress opework and Mistress Gallipot go for their boat ride” It’s but liquoring
then both soundly, and then you shall see their cork heels fly up high.” Goshawk is
speaking clearly about having sex with the two of them with this imagery and thus it
seems the same with Moll when she is talking about the German. This may seem a little
bit of a stretch but all of the conversation in this passage is full of sexual undertones that
I think this is how the audience would have perceived this reference. This indicates that
Moll is not the virgin that was suggested in class but sexually active on her own terms.
Later in her discussion with Sebastian she indicates that she is bisexual, in today’s
understanding, with “ I love to lie a’both side a’ th’ bed myself.”(1377) The next page
Moll meets Openwork
“ Moll Who’s this?
Openwork Tis I, Moll
Moll Prithee, tend thy shop and prevent bastards,
Openwork We’ll have a pint of the same wine, I’faith, Moll”
and they leave together. The question becomes where do they go and what do they do.
Well as soon as they leave a bell rings. This is more than the midday clock, this is where
the sweeping music comes in on a soap opera. They are off for sex, the same wine. Now
in my confusion in reading this the first time I thought that Moll goes off with Mistress
Openwork, witch would be much more interesting but that is not the case.
Is this an accurate reading? Do they only go off to a pub for a beer and that is all.
Scene one seems to be building to some type of climax and this would seem to be
convenient way to achieve that end. I prefer my misreading. The climax never is
achieved for the woman are calling for Mistress Openwork to go and eat and she appears
and exclaims “I have no joy of my life,” (1376) indicating that she does not find
satisfaction with Moll. If this was right then Moll’s spear is a “too short by the
burr”(1375). The way It reads Moll is only a prostitute off with another man. This
contradicts the action later in the play where in Moll seems to be presented as the
virginal outsider who is cast as a prostitute for behaving masculine and thus must be
deemed a prostitute, the worse type of woman.