Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: August ::
Re: Sonnets and Homosexuality
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0762  Friday, 14 August 1998.

[1]     From:   Carl Fortunato <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Thursday, 13 Aug 1998 11:25:19 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0757  Re: Sonnets and Homosexuality

[2]     From:   Carl Fortunato <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Thursday, 13 Aug 1998 11:33:31 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0757  Re: Sonnets and Homosexuality

[3]     From:   Carl Fortunato <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Thursday, 13 Aug 1998 11:46:14 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0757  Re: Sonnets and Homosexuality

[4]     From:   Peter T. Hadorn <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Thursday, 13 Aug 1998 11:54:48 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 9.0757  Re: Sonnets and Homosexuality

[5]     From:   Chris Stroffolino <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Thursday, 13 Aug 1998 13:16:06 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0757  Re: Sonnets and Homosexuality

[6]     From:   Peter Groves <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 14 Aug 1998 08:23:09 +1000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0755  Sonnets and Homosexuality

[7]     From:   Dana Spradley <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 14 Aug 1998 09:20:11 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0757 Re: Sonnets and Homosexuality


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Carl Fortunato <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Thursday, 13 Aug 1998 11:25:19 EDT
Subject: 9.0757  Re: Sonnets and Homosexuality
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0757  Re: Sonnets and Homosexuality

> Does it matter?  Are the sonnets any less or more effective, artful,
> person to person, for that determination?

It does not make any difference in their artfulness.  It *does* make a
difference in determining their meaning, and in determining whether or
not they are autobiographical.

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Carl Fortunato <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Thursday, 13 Aug 1998 11:33:31 EDT
Subject: 9.0757  Re: Sonnets and Homosexuality
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0757  Re: Sonnets and Homosexuality

>However, Sonnet 20 is pretty damned obviously a love note to a fellow
>male, with its references to "the master-mistress of my passions" and
>the closing couplet.  (I've written a paper using this poem as my
>thesis, essentially, and demonstrating a strong homoerotic and
>homosocial thread running through the plays.)

Many people view sonnet 20 as the opposite - a statement that WS loves
the young man, but has no use for his "appendage" - which would seem to
be a statement of heterosexuality.

>Here are two big questions, however:
>1.      Is the order of the Sonnets Shakespeare's order or an editor's order?
>Do they trace a love affair with a youth or do they merely describe
>moments that someone other than the poet has shaped into a story?

I have an old edition of the Sonnets which claims to have discovered the
"true" orders by some means of match rhymes.  I have no idea if it's
accurate, but the order arrived at is actually a good one.  In that
order, Sonnet 20 becomes Sonnet 1 and opens the set.

>2. Whether or not there is a sequence, are the Sonnets personal
>revelations or works of creative fiction, if you will, where the poet is
>exploring potentialities and emotional possibilities in the way a novel
>might?  I have a gay friend who has written incredibly moving
>straight-love poems as well as equally moving gay-love poems, both about
>imagined rather than real experiences.

I have always assumed that they were autobiographical.  I would think
that the "Will" sonnets are a strong indication of that, as well as the
personal references and sheer vagueness of some of them.  Rowse made a
whole career on the supposition that they were autobiographical.  He
denied their homosexuality, but he was a homophobe (At one point,
arguing against Shakespeare's homosexuality, he writes, "Shakespeare was
perfectly normal.")

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Carl Fortunato <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Thursday, 13 Aug 1998 11:46:14 EDT
Subject: 9.0757  Re: Sonnets and Homosexuality
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0757  Re: Sonnets and Homosexuality

>If Carl absolutely can't bear to think of Will as AC/DC, there might be
>an arguable wiggle in the master-mistress sonnet. 14 feminine endings?
>There's a major private joke there, we just have no idea what the joke
>is-but it makes me feel queasy about taking anything it says or hints
>for true.

Oh, no, it doesn't bother me.  I just think it's interesting.

Were they *called* "feminine endings" in Shakespeare's day?

>However, other language throughout the plays shows a very thorough
>knowledge of the puns of buggery

Yes,  but he often seems to be making a bit of mockery of the subject.
Patroclus and Achilles come in for a good bit of mockery for being
lovers.  And with Coriolanus and Aufidius he seems to be using
homoerotic imagery as a way of treating warriors' violence as some sort
of sick repressed sexuality.  At least that's what I make of it.

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter T. Hadorn <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Thursday, 13 Aug 1998 11:54:48 -0500
Subject: 9.0757  Re: Sonnets and Homosexuality
Comment:        RE: SHK 9.0757  Re: Sonnets and Homosexuality

Regarding Shakespeare's sexuality.  I refer Carl to the brief section on
Shakespeare's sexuality in Stephen Booth's edition of the poems.  The
first two sentences read thus:  "William Shakespeare was almost
certainly homosexual, bisexual, or heterosexual. The sonnets provide no
evidence on the matter."  Perhaps Booth (and I) are being coy, but I
firmly believe that the reader will find in the sonnets what the reader
wants to find.  Just as all Catholics will believe Shakespeare was
Catholic, Protestants will think he is Protestant, and atheists will
think he was an atheistic.

[5]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Chris Stroffolino <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Thursday, 13 Aug 1998 13:16:06 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 9.0757  Re: Sonnets and Homosexuality
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0757  Re: Sonnets and Homosexuality

I like the idea that the first 18 sonnets can also be read as
Shakespeare talking to himself, telling himself "thou single will prove
none" for instance-and the procreative metaphor may be equally about the
desire to write PLAYS, to "divide himself up into characters" (or as
CYMBELINE puts it "cut the roots into characters"). I do not mean to
discount other readings, including the homosexual aesthetic eugenics one
Pequigney raises, but I'm curious if this "self-reflective" reading has
occurred to others.....

   Chris Stroffolino

[6]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Groves <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 14 Aug 1998 08:23:09 +1000
Subject: 9.0755  Sonnets and Homosexuality
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0755  Sonnets and Homosexuality

> Does anyone have any opinions on the Sonnets?  Was Shakespeare gay for
> part of his life, or is something else being expressed here?

He denies having any interest in actual sodomy:

And for a woman wert thou first created,
Till nature as she wrought thee fell a dotinge,
And by addition me of thee defeated,
By adding one thing to my purpose nothing.
But since she prickt thee out for womens pleasure,
Mine be thy loue and thy loues vse their treasure.      Son. 20.9-14

But in the immortal words of Mandy Rice-Davies, a key witness in the
Profumo affair, he would say that, wouldn't he?

[7]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Dana Spradley <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 14 Aug 1998 09:20:11 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 9.0757 Re: Sonnets and Homosexuality
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0757 Re: Sonnets and Homosexuality

Glad to see people have by now pretty much gotten their heads around
this issue in interesting ways. One position not quite taken here yet:
the male beloved / female rival scenario could be seen as a way
Shakespeare in having fun with / toping off a tradition that typically
had things the other way round.

At least, that's the partial view that magnifies Shakespeare's
invention. And if it's true in part, it makes it even more surprising
that some of the poems read so resonantly that I for one have little
doubt there most be some real love affair(s) or at least desires behind
them. The Sonnets are doubtless true - and also a great work of fiction.
Sometimes life's just like that - indeed, maybe it's real life at its
best when it also seems most artful.
 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.