Monday 23 April 2012

Putting the Record Straight on - Shakespeare

Today is St. George’s Day, perhaps the only national day in the world which isn’t celebrated with a public holiday by its own country! It also happens to be the anniversary of the birth and death of England’s most famous playwright William Shakespeare.

I’m not convinced by any declaration of Shakespeare’s sexuality. The question about whether he was gay, bisexual or neither is more disputed than that of King Richard the Lionheart.

The whole theory behind Shakespeare being gay/bisexual seems to rest on flimsy evidence to say the least. First, his plays are presented by some pro-gay scholars as examples of cross-dressing fantasies he had. They ignore tha fact that plays in his time didn’t allow female actors and all female characters were played by boys. It was accepted in Tudor times, just as cross-dressing in panto is today. So, does that mean that everyone who wrote a pantomime has cross-dressing fantasies? Or that the writers of “Tootsie” or “Mrs. Doubtfire” are gay?

But the main evidence put forward for Shakespeare’s sexuality are his sonnets, his 20th sonnet in particular. Alan Bray, a respected gay scholar and historian, trashed the gay Shakespeare theory in 1995. Looking at the conventions of Shakespearean England, with its culture of emotional bonding between men (the Bromance of its age) and male bed-sharing (commonplace before the 20th century), there’s nothing in Shakespeare’s writing to indicate his own sexuality.

It seems that just because people imply a homosexual theme in someone’s writing it doesn’t mean it’s actually there. After all, Elton John has written many, very overt, straight love songs, so that obviously means he is definitely NOT gay. Right?

No comments:

Post a Comment