Etymology of The Beast with Two Backs

I love creative use of language.  Did you know the phrase the “beast with two backs” is quoted 400 years ago in Othello by Shakespeare in 1604?  Iago says, “I am one, sir, that comes to tell you your daughter and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs”  Of course, one cannot just make a phrase for it to be a good one, but it has to have context.  Iago doesn’t just use it to just mean sexual intercourse, he uses it to convey ugliness in that particular pairing of people.

Even eighty years earlier than that, a version of “the beast with two backs” appears in François Rabelais’ (A French Renaissance writer and doctor) Gargantua and Pantagruel, around the year 1532.  “In the vigour of his age he married Gargamelle, daughter to the King of the Parpaillons, a jolly pug, and well-mouthed wench. These two did oftentimes do the two-backed beast together, joyfully rubbing and frotting their bacon ‘gainst one another….”

I wonder how many jokes back then used the term “bacon.”



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