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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: February ::
Re: Homoerotic and *The Sonnets*
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0074.  Sunday, 5 February 1995.
 
(1)     From:   E. L. Epstein <epstein@QCVAXA.BITNET>
        Date:   Saturday, 04 Feb 1995 14:34:00 EDT
        Subj:   RE: SHK 6.0069  Qs: Homoerotic
 
(2)     From:   Jon Connolly <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Sunday, 5 Feb 1995 00:18:37 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0069 Qs: Homoerotic
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           E. L. Epstein <epstein@QCVAXA.BITNET>
Date:           Saturday, 04 Feb 1995 14:34:00 EDT
Subject: 6.0069  Qs: Homoerotic
Comment:        RE: SHK 6.0069  Qs: Homoerotic
 
We must be very careful when we apply modern standards to previous ages. The
matter of homoeroticism is a case in point. In the old days (that is, the Old
Stone Age , when I was a boy), marrying a wife was in essence, hiring a
housemaid who would bear your children. Of course, there is some reason for
this attitude: in an age when everybody lived on the edge, what we call
sentiment was a seldom thing. You *could* love your wife; nothing could stop
you. However, if you did, the Romans at least had a pejorative to apply to you:
uxorius. It is difficult to find affection in early marriages. In tHe Bible,
for instance, there are only two marriages that come to mind where the husband
is considerate of his wife's feelings: the man who will later be the father of
Samuel consoles his wife, Hannah, by saying when she laments her barreness, "Am
I not better for you than ten sons?" That is, I love you and this should make
up for a great deal of your pain." In addition, there is Boaz who behaves like
a gentleman to Naomi and Ruth. However these are the exceptions. Now here is
the point: In such a society if the husband does not look for affection from
the wife, nor does he give her any, where can he expend his affection? With his
menfriends, that is, a male-bonding unit. (The women presumably did the same
with their female friends) Therefore, strong male friendships need not have any
sexual content, nor should strong female friendships.
 
In our own time, however, we are on the other side of the Romantic Revolution,
in which personal sincerity and strong emotion were considered de rigeur in
personal relationships. Hence, affection between husband and wife is now take
for granted as a condition of their relationship. Now, if a married man has
*strong* friendships with other men, and the wife with other women, it is not
without justification the strong friendships could be seen to have a sexual
component. Women are now, in intention, autonomous, that is, in charge of their
own destiny, and therefore equal partners in a marriage, at least in a healthy
modern relationship. Therefor the firiendships of David and Jonathan and
Achilles and Patroclus, or to get back to the subject Shakespeare and
Southampton, can be seen to be examples of male bonding, rather than love
affairs in our modern sense of the term. This would also relieve the
possibility\ of sexual tinge in the men acting as women in the theatre.
Comments?
 
E.L.Epstein
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jon Connolly <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Sunday, 5 Feb 1995 00:18:37 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 6.0069 Qs: Homoerotic
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0069 Qs: Homoerotic
 
To Jung Jimmy,
Re: Homoeroticism and *The Sonnets*
 
I would hesitate to generalize about what the "current belief" on the subject
is, but for two nuanced takes on the subject that avoid the "are they or aren't
they" trap, you might try Alan Bray's "Homosexuality and the Signs of Male
Friendship in Elizabethan England" in _Queering the Renaissance_ (Jonathan
Goldberg, ed. Duke U.P., 1994) and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's chapter on the
sonnets in _Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire_
(Columbia UP, 1985).
 
Jon Connolly
U.C. Santa Barbara
 

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