Falstaff: ‘I will not lend thee a penny.’
Pistol: ‘Why then the world’s mine oyster, which I with sword will open.’
[Merry Wives of Windsor, 2.2.1-3]
It is there from the moment you wake in your house with your sheets wrapped around you to the minute you turn off your lamp to sleep in your bed at night. ‘The world’s mine oyster’ is the mantra, the obsession, the desolation.
Shakespeare did not give us the ‘world’ as our ‘oyster’. He gave us ‘Pistol’, an extravagant fool and cowardly bully who makes a threat when Falstaff refuses to lend him money. Flying into a child-like rage, he asserts that he will take what he wants by force if it is not given, and make it his. In
Elizabethan times the Oyster was seen as signifying female parts, and the purity of the Pearl. Add ‘sword’ to the mix and
a picture of rape emerges.
When we realise the world is not a thing to prise open and possess, but our home to cherish and share, we can begin to make amends.
Take Physic, Pomp!