Reading Shakespeare’s Hamlet in act 3 scene 1 Hamlet advises Ophelia, “Get thee to a nunnery.” A footnote informs the reader that, “ ‘Nunnery’ could mean either convent or brothel.” Interesting!
b. slang. A brothel. Now hist. Bold emphasis added
1593 T. NASHE Christs Teares 79 b [To] some one Gentleman generally acquainted, they giue..free priuiledge thenceforward in theyr Nunnery, to procure them frequentance.
1594 Gesta Grayorum (1914) 12 Lucy Negro, Abbess de Clerkenwell, holdeth the Nunnery of Clerkenwell.
a1625 J. FLETCHER Mad Lover IV. ii, in F. Beaumont & J. Fletcher Comedies & Trag. (1647) sig. C4v/1 Chi. Ther’s an old Nunnerie at hand. Clo. What’s that. Chi. A bawdie House.
1781 Compl. Mod. London Spy (title-page) The characters of many well-known Persons who are now frequenters at Gaming-Houses, Bagnios, and other Nunneries, Night-Houses,..Taverns, [etc.].
1785 F. Grose Classical Dict. Vulgar Tongue Nunnery, a bawdy house.
1846 ‘Lord Chief Baron’ Swell’s Night Guide (new ed.) 126/2 Nunnery, a brothel.
1977 J. T. Shipley In Praise of Eng. 194 To the antipapist Tudors nunnery was a slang term for a brothel.
Has anyone encountered the word being used in this context? Fascinating how some words can have antithetical meanings.