Beginner's Guide To Limericksby P. Robertshaw
Brief HistoryIt is unclear when the first limerick was written. Debate has raged among exponents of the form as to what was officially a limerick in the history of verse, using examples going back as far even as 448 BC to describe its origins, with the Greek poet Aristophanes. Shakespeare has also been cited as an early exponent, in Othello (1604):
And let the canikin clink, clink
There was a young lady from Norway
Another limerick by Lear was parodied either by George Bernard Shaw or by Sir William Schenck Gilbert (whom, it was believed, disliked Lear’s style). Some debate exists on this point. Lear had written:
There was an old man in a tree
The reply followed:
There was an old man of St. Bees
As for the name ‘limerick’, there is no agreement. Some claimed it is named after the town of Limerick in Ireland, but others discount this on the basis that there is little or no evidence to support it. It is certain that the verse was popular there, but inconclusive as to whether the town gave its name to the verse.
Today, the limerick has a strong band of followers and enthusiasts who delight in its humorous potential. While it must be said that the overwhelming majority of well-known limericks are risqué or blatantly sexual, the clean limerick is still going strong and is an excellent test of its writer’s ingenuity.
This article: © June 2001 P. Robertshaw. All rights reserved. All examples written by P. Robertshaw except where otherwise stated.
|Home - Community - Audio - Library - Links - Store - Support|