The Bard's sexuality comes into question, again, on his birthday.
April 24, 2002 1:37 AM   Subscribe

The Bard's sexuality comes into question, again, on his birthday. 'The portrait already has considerable intrinsic historical interest, and if you believe that the young man addressed in the sonnets was Henry Wriothesley there is the additional thrill that this could be the face that Shakespeare fell in love with, perhaps wishing its owner was a girl. The magnitude of the thrill depends on how much you think the identity of the young person matters to the poems. Many think it matters a lot.'
posted by skallas (19 comments total)
 
Well, look at it this way, everyone who acted in his plays was male, characters like juliet were played by boys.

Seems pretty gay to me. Or at least bi.

But then again, shakespear didn't write his own stuff anyway, so who knows.
posted by delmoi at 3:14 AM on April 24, 2002


I thought the casts were all male because women weren't allowed to take part in those times.
posted by Saima at 4:00 AM on April 24, 2002


Saima. Well yeh, I still think they were all gay though.
posted by delmoi at 4:27 AM on April 24, 2002


and so the plot thickens...from June, 1593, until the summer of 1598, Marlowe was living with Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton, at TITCHFIELD, in Hampshire.
posted by Tarrama at 4:47 AM on April 24, 2002


Is this all because the guy in the protrait, who is now supposed to have been Shakespeare's patron Henry Wriothesley, looks gay? What sort of half-assed (or fully assless, even) theorizing is that?

How gay.
posted by pracowity at 4:51 AM on April 24, 2002


[Portrait. I type liked a damned monkey.]
posted by pracowity at 6:15 AM on April 24, 2002


Does it really matter?
posted by darukaru at 6:35 AM on April 24, 2002


I feel the same way darukaru, it doesn't matter. It just makes the stories about the bard, even more interesting.
posted by Tarrama at 7:21 AM on April 24, 2002


Hey, April 23 is remarkable in that the two greatest writers in the English language were both born on this day: William Shakespeare and Vladimir Nabokov. Is that a coincidence or what? Why is this relevent to this thread? Because people speculate about McNab's sexuality also. Was he a pedophile? Is it important? Perhaps works of art can have their own sexuality, not necessarily tied to the identity of the creator. There is no question that Shakespeare wrote homosexual sonnets. And there's no question that Nabokov wrote a swooningly pedophilic novel. Perhaps we should leave it at that, and not insult these two geniuses by pigeonholing their vast and encompassing persons.
posted by Faze at 7:23 AM on April 24, 2002


There is another portrait here.
posted by Tarrama at 7:35 AM on April 24, 2002


Of course, it is perfectly fair to speculate on the sexuality of Henry Wriothesley, who appears, based on the evidence of these portraits, to be something of a fey, flaming, flouncing, lisping, eye-rolling, mincing, tripping, limp-wristed, throaty-voiced, moueing, boa-flinging, hip-swinging, woo-woo, sissy bottom.
posted by Faze at 7:57 AM on April 24, 2002


Did they have loafers back then?
posted by pracowity at 8:11 AM on April 24, 2002


This thread went from 0 to Stomach-Ache in about eight seconds.
posted by Skot at 8:34 AM on April 24, 2002


He married. He had kids. He wrote love poems to men. He's bisexual.

Next?
posted by NortonDC at 8:55 AM on April 24, 2002


Well I'm finding this quite fascinating. Is it because I'm imagining Joseph Fiennes as Shakespeare and Ewan McGregor as Henry Wriothesley? Who knows.
posted by Summer at 9:17 AM on April 24, 2002


Is this all because the guy in the protrait, who is now supposed to have been Shakespeare's patron Henry Wriothesley, looks gay? What sort of half-assed (or fully assless, even) theorizing is that?

no, it's because the guy in the portrait was dressed as a woman and referred to on the back as Lady Norton, daughter of the Bishop of Winton, and because his sonnets to a fair youth with "a woman's face" were written exactly when the portrait was painted.

here is sonnet 20:

A WOMAN'S face with Nature's own hand painted
Hast thou, the master-mistress of my passion;
A woman's gentle heart, but not acquainted
With shifting change, as is false women's fashion;
An eye more bright than theirs, less false in rolling,
Gilding the object whereupon it gazeth;
A man in hue, all 'hues' in his controlling,
Much steals men's eyes and women's souls amazeth.
And for a woman wert thou first created;
Till Nature, as she wrought thee, fell a-doting,
And by addition me of thee defeated,
By adding one thing to my purpose nothing.
But since she prick'd thee out for women's pleasure,
Mine be thy love and thy love's use their treasure.

which seems to be about wishing some young man weren't "pricked out" for the use of women, instead of being a woman...
posted by mdn at 10:54 AM on April 24, 2002


insert your own Gwynneth Paltrow joke here
posted by briank at 11:14 AM on April 24, 2002


So, ok, let's get this straight: Shakespeare is gay, he smokes marijuana, and he's Christopher Marlowe. He might also be Queen Elizabeth. Or the Duke of Clarence. Or the Duke of Clarence's physician Sir William Whithey Gull, who was seen in the Whitechapel area at the time of the murders. But wait.. Skokie, Illinois.. Kobayashi was the company that made the coffee mug! IT'S THE CRIPPLE!
posted by Hildago at 3:52 PM on April 24, 2002


> no, it's because the guy in the portrait was dressed as
> a woman and referred to on the back as Lady Norton,
> daughter of the Bishop of Winton,

According to modern Western European fashions, yes, he's dressed as a woman. And according to their fashions, most modern women dress as men and most modern men run around the streets in their underwear.

From the BBC link above:

Susan North, an expert in furniture, textiles and fashion, at the Victoria and Albert museum, London, said: "One of the greatest errors we make in looking at dress of the past is to view gender distinctions from the perspective of our own dress.

"A 'frilly collar' was entirely appropriate for a man during this period.

"Jewellery for men was also acceptable and earrings are frequently seen in portraits of men of this time, along with long hair.

"Again these are part of masculine fashion and not any sign of sexual preference."

She also agree that it was impossible to tell if the subject was wearing make-up because it was not known if the painter had accentuated colours.


Not that Shakespeare wasn't sexually attracted to men. From other evidence, it looks as if he may have been. Or maybe not. But it doesn't matter, not unless the National Enquirer matters, and this painting proves nothing about it one way or the other. It only shows us that many modern people think the guy in the painting -- if it's a guy in the painting, and if it's the guy they speculate it is -- sure looks gay.

> here is sonnet 20:

Ah, but that's other evidence. The questions here are whether the painting means anything (it doesn't) and whether we should care one way or the other (no). People waste an awful lot of time sniffing Shakespeare's underwear and tittle-tattling about it.
posted by pracowity at 10:14 PM on April 24, 2002


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