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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: November ::
Re: Mercutio: Queer, Homosexual, Gay, Bisexual
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.1120.  Friday, 7 November 1997.

[1]     From:   Christine Gilmore <
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        Date:   Thursday, 06 Nov 1997 08:54:38 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.1118  Re: Gay Iago; Queer Mercutio

[2]     From:   Peter Hillyar-Russ <
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        Date:   Friday, 7 Nov 1997 09:37:18 -0000
        Subj:   Mercutio and Allied Gay's


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Christine Gilmore <
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Date:           Thursday, 06 Nov 1997 08:54:38 -0600
Subject: 8.1118  Re: Gay Iago; Queer Mercutio
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.1118  Re: Gay Iago; Queer Mercutio

 Elizabeth Dietz writes that:
> Re the "queer Mercutio" dialogue, and Tim Richards' assertion that
> Luhrman's Mercutio is not obviously gay-I agree.  I used the word
> "queer" to distinguish Mercutio's self-presentation as neither overtly
> gay nor straight.  This is what I understand queer to mean-a "queering"
> or disruption of an either-or sexuality.  In other filmed versions
> (Zeffirelli's for instance) Mercutio's love for Romeo might be
> characterized as homosocial-a bonding between men achieved through
> markedly misogynistic language-a mode which strengthens the oppositions
> between men and women we understand as "heterosexuality."  In the
> Lurhman however Mercutio seems to me to "queer" his scenes, and thus the
> gender relations of the play as a whole, by being unclassifiable.

I think some queering is being done here!  Now we have a verb, "to
queer," that means a "disruption of an either-or sexuality," meaning, to
make it queer.  This is queer-in the old sense!  If we have this quite
useful term of Eve Sedgewick (I think and someone can correct me if I'm
wrong), i.e., "homosocial" why do we need a neologism that seems simply
a bit of twisted lingo and perhaps over-determined thinking?  Is this
usage of "to queer" common, or am I out of the loop? Mercutio's gender
is classifiable, is it not?  Homosocial bonding exists (predominates) in
Shakespearean drama. But does Baz Luhrman QUEER Mercutio by making him
"not obviously gay," which means he does not highlight for us the
character's sexual preference?  This seems a contradiction in terms and
also an example of  late 20th century term envy!

Some more work needs to be done on this idea-"queering" as not
underscoring but ignoring sexual preference and through this non-display
establishing a character as gay-to help me understand its vitality (and
its ethic!).  At the moment, I'm wondering how this idea of "queering"
helps me to understand anything much about the play, the movie, the
character.

from the hinterlands, cg.

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Hillyar-Russ <
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Date:           Friday, 7 Nov 1997 09:37:18 -0000
Subject:        Mercutio and Allied Gay's

I have often seen the suggestion that Mercutio is modeled on Kit
Marlowe, which would certainly lend support to the thesis that he was
one of "Those who love[d] boys and tobacco".

But is it not anachronistic to use 19th ("homosexual") and 20th
("bisexual", "gay") century terminology to discuss attitudes to
sexuality which may not have existed in any comparable form in the
Elizabethan - Jacobean period. My reading of the sonnets is one of
"ambivalence" - which might imply (in today's terms) some sort of
universal bisexuality; but without today's insistence that we identify
ourselves (at least to ourselves) as one thing or another before we
start.

We know that gay activities were practised, and that intense friendships
between men were common. However the limitations placed on women's
freedom to make friendships with men makes that society so totally
different from ours, it is hard, if not impossible, to apply today's
conceptualisation to the period.

Peter Hillyar-Russ
 

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