Gay Bard

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.039  Wednesday, 28 January 2015


[Editor’s Note: I am posted these two responses but then this thread is over. –Hardy]


[1] From:        Jim Carroll <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         January 27, 2015 at 12:41:11 PM EST

     Subject:    Re: Gay Bard 


[2] From:        David Basch <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         January 27, 2015 at 2:24:44 PM EST

     Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Gay Bard 




From:        Jim Carroll <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         January 27, 2015 at 12:41:11 PM EST

Subject:    Re: Gay Bard


Here's my final word on Shakespearean sonnets.


Sid Lubow (or anyone) is of course free to find any correspondences that they can between a sonnet and any similar work, but to my mind these things are not very useful for biographical speculation without hard external evidence, and likewise for determining source material. I prefer to work with what I can see in front of me, such as words and phrases in their context. For example, both Barnes’ sonnet 88 and Shakespeare’s sonnet 27 concern the speaker dreaming about the addressee, and both use the phrase “work my mind”. The context and the actual words, together, make a strong case for Barnes’ sonnet as a source for Shakespeare’s:


Barnes 88


Within thine eyes mine heart takes all his rest !

In which, still sleeping, all my sense is drowned.

The dreams, with which my senses are oppressed,

Be thousand lovely fancies turning round

The restless wheel of my much busy brain.

The morning, which from resting doth awake me,

Thy beauty ! banished from my sight again,

When I to long melancholy betake me.

Then full of errors, all my dreams I find !

And in their kinds contrarious, till the day

(Which is her beauty) set on work my mind;

Which never will cease labour ! never stay !

And thus my pleasures are but dreams with me;

Whilst mine hot fevers pains quotidians be.


Shakespeare 27


Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed,

The dear repose for limbs with travel tired;

But then begins a journey in my head,

To work my mind, when body's work's expired:

For then my thoughts, from far where I abide,

Intend a zealous pilgrimage to thee,

And keep my drooping eyelids open wide,

Looking on darkness which the blind do see

Save that my soul's imaginary sight

Presents thy shadow to my sightless view,

Which, like a jewel hung in ghastly night,

Makes black night beauteous and her old face new.

Lo! thus, by day my limbs, by night my mind,

For thee and for myself no quiet find.


Given that Shakespeare re-worked literary sources (“plagiarised” if it were done in our day) such as Brooke’s “Tragical Hystory of Romeus & Juliet”, Chaucer’s “Troilus and Criseyde”, and short passages such as Holinshed’s version of the “Salic Law” speech into his own history of Henry V, it’s not a very big stretch to believe that he could do the same thing with sonnets.


It’s possible to interpret specific vocabulary in Shakespeare’s sonnet 27 as a deliberate re-working of Barnes’ sonnet 88. Both of these sonnets involve night and dreaming, but Shakespeare avoids literal borrowing with the exception of the phrase “work my mind”. Otherwise, where Barnes uses “brain”, Shakespeare uses “body”, where Barnes uses “dreams” and “fancies”, Shakespeare uses “journey in my head”, “thoughts” and “imaginary sight”, whereas Barnes uses “morning”, Shakespeare uses “night”, where Barnes uses “rest”, Shakespeare uses “repose”. Even the passage which uses the phrase “work my mind” is continued in a similar but not identical vein: Barnes uses “...work my mind/ Which never will cease labour”, while Shakespeare uses “...work my mind, when body’s work’s expired”, substituting a second “work” where Barnes had used “labour”. In my own “imaginary sight”, I can see Shakespeare scratching his head over his desk, striving to create a literary heritage from the flotsam of his contemporary culture. That thought is not likely to lead to popular movies like “Shakespeare in Love”, or tears and  breathless sighs, but surely the reason we honor Shakespeare today is that he was above all that, isn’t it?


Jim Carroll



From:        David Basch <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         January 27, 2015 at 2:24:44 PM EST

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Gay Bard


Irrespective of what is erroneously alleged, I certainly don’t object if others disagree with my views. Nor do I demand obedience to it. But what I do object to is persons who don’t bother to understand what I write and then accuse me of views of which I do not hold.


I never wrote as alleged that “gay or bi people are ‘obsessed, ill personalities’? ‘Emotionally crippled’?” However I did write that Shakespeare has been described as a person who falls into those categories. This shows up in Sonnet 40, in which, despite the wounding betrayals by his friend, he in effect asks for more pain, declaring to his friend, “Kill me with spites,” but yet goes on in a seemingly servile manner to say that he and his friend “must not be foes.”


This is not the only sonnet in which the poet appears to behave servilely toward his friend. In Sonnet 58 he identifies himself as his friend’s “slave” and his “vassal.” He writes, “Oh let me suffer (being at your beck),” And then there is Sonnet 42, in which he prefers and remains loving to his friend who has allured his girl, another situation that smacks of masochism.


In the above situation, the poet is also held out by some interpreters of the Sonnets as being homosexual, preferring his male friend to his woman friend. Here too in this relationship he is said to exhibit masochistic behavior, willing to suffer all, abasing himself for his friend. It seems emotionally unhealthy to me.


But on the other hand, have we not heard of such a thing as “battered wife syndrome”? In this kind of love it is a heterosexual wife that is in an unhealthy relationship. Would that be more acceptable if the battered spouse were a male? The point is that one may be hetero- or bi- or homo and exhibit the masochism that is part of the syndrome of a battered spouse. This is obviously an emotionally unhealthy relationship, irrespective of whether the suffering one is heterosexual or other. So the idea that I am denigrating those who are other than heterosexual is bogus.


I did, however, comment on how readily commentators are to affirm that the seemingly sick relationship described in the Sonnets are indeed sick and do not try to dig deeper in order to see if there are other explanations of this behavior. In trying to understand why commentators seem to readily accept this situation at face value, I muse that, perhaps, it is an attempt to exhibit their broad-mindedness toward same sex love as not something to be denigrated. But, in doing so, commentators have been ignoring that along with this bi-sexual interpretation and the poet’s accompanying alleged abject servility, they are blinding themselves to what appears as the poet’s emotionally ill behavior. In effect, they seem all too ready to do so at the cost of tearing down the character of the great poet and are unwilling to take the efforts to explore further to see if there is any other way to interpret the Sonnets.


Katherine M. Wilson, a specialist on the sonnet form, observed in her book, Shakespeare’s Sugared Sonnets (1974), that many of Shakespeare’s sonnets are parodies of earlier existing sonnets. This discounts the view that these many of Shakespeare’s sonnets were written spontaneously in reaction to real events. She also averred that the Sonnets were not written to any woman. I have never read of any follow up of her insights. Commentators, apparently, having been drawn to the current views. This is why I mentioned that this seems to reflect what is today a pervasive philo-homosexual attitude since no other possibilities have been explored or entertained, commentators having accepted the poet as he seems to be, emotionally ill warts and all.


As is known, I have offered another view of the Sonnets. But I don’t demand its acceptance in whole or in part unless my views are persuasive. I have posed that the “friends” in the Sonnets are not real persons, echoing Katharine Wilson in part. When I analyze the sonnets, I detect that we have here an allegory, with the two loved friends, the young man and the woman, being allegorical representations.


I didn’t make this view up from thin air, but called attention to what Sonnet 144 tells as well as what hints are given by other sonnets. As the poet has alleged in Sonnet 144 of two of his friends, that, “being both from me both to each friend,” they are what he calls “spirits” or “angels.” One he describes as “a man right faire,” the other his “female evil,” telling that they represent opposite inclinations, higher and lower aspects of himself, vying for a supremacy that is yet open ended. Notice, the poet tells that these “loved friends” are “both from me,” that is, are inner aspects of himself.


What I conclude is that this is a representations of a familiar religious conception of the two souls of which man is endowed, one given at birth, which draws us toward our terrestrial appetites and passions, and one that arrives a little later at a young person’s moral maturity and turns us towards God and holiness.


In the narrative of the Sonnets, the earthy soul is allegorized as an alluring woman and the higher soul is allegorized as an idealized, beauteous version of the poet. It begins with the poet as a youth that has been smitten by the love for his higher soul that has suddenly manifested in himself. He now, apparently, wishes for the angelic piety and closeness to God that the influence of this love has fostered. Hence, he shuns the “sullying” passions of his lower soul. The Sonnets presents the poet’s interactions with these inner aspects. In this, they are both friends and loved ones. The poems tell of the poet’s dismay at the allure of his lower soul in winning recognition of her essential influence.


For if the higher soul continues to predominate, a man is angelic and unable to protect himself or to procreate. But if the lower soul predominates, man is as a beast, which condition the poet rejects. Hence, he needs to learn the essential role of each of these aspects of his soul and to create a blending in which each are loved and respected in due proportion.


I have mentioned on list some of the hints given in the Sonnets narrative. For example, Sonnet 41 describes the poet’s reaction to the lower soul’s progress in winning over his higher soul. In Sonnet 42 we have the poet’s remark that he and his friend “are one.” Therefore, the victory of his lower soul in captivating his higher soul is not a loss but results in that “she loves me alone.” This is so for his “friend,” his higher soul, is none other than himself, all three being one. All being aspects of himself.


As far as the instances of the poet’s servile behavior toward his friend, this is a friend to be distinguished from the idealized version of himself as the higher soul. This friend is none other than God and the Sonnets reflects the poet’s supreme devotion to Him. This is shown in Sonnet 40, which is a sonnet that turns out to be an exercise of theodicy, the science of explaining God’s ways to man. In this sonnet, while the poet mentions the betrayal by his friend, God, he concludes that “we must not be foes.” That is, despite all the slings and arrows of life that god permits, the poet concludes in his wisdom that man and God must not be foes. Thus, what is servile in connection with a self-involved young man is high devotion in relation to God.


Sonnet 30 shows another side of this encounter. Here the poet laments all those friends lost in death’s dateless night.” Showing the inspiration he draws from his love and devotion to God, the poet tells, “But if the while I think on thee (dear friend) /All losses are restored, and sorrows end.”


The point of this presentations is not to tie up all loose ends, which I have not. Nor is it to compel agreement. It is to show that we should not be settling for a prosaic, literal, narrow interpretation of the Sonnets that as a side effect erroneously shows off the poet as a disturbed personality. These poems, about which some of the most celebrated of our scholars of poetry have concluded are most artfully and exquisitely composed, deserve a true accounting. This reveals that these poems have a more complex and elevated content than has been credited and that they are a worthy creation of the great poet of the ages. To paraphrase Robert Browning, if the poet unlocked his heart in these poems, the more Shakespeare he.


David Basch


Lexicons of Early Modern English User Survey

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.038  Wednesday, 28 January 2015


From:        UTP Journals <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         January 28, 2015 at 9:41:49 AM EST

Subject:    Lexicons of Early Modern English 


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posted by T Hawkins


Shakespeare on Screen

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.036  Monday, 26 January 2015


From:        Charles Weinstein <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         January 24, 2015 at 10:33:45 AM EST

Subject:    Shakespeare on Screen


In his new book Shakespeare and the English-Speaking Cinema, Russell Jackson, adapting Heminge and Condell, writes: “watch the films again – and again”.  That would be difficult, since most of them are not worth watching at all.


--Charles Weinstein


Gay Bard

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.037  Monday, 26 January 2015


[Editor's Note: This thread seems to have come to a logical end. People are talking at cross purposes. No more, please. -Hardy]


[1] From:        Arlynda Boyer <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         January 23, 2015 at 8:48:16 PM EST

     Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Gay Bard 


[2] From:        Sidney Lubow <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         January 26, 2015 at 11:50:30 AM EST

     Subject:    Gay Bard 




From:        Arlynda Boyer <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         January 23, 2015 at 8:48:16 PM EST

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Gay Bard


So gay or bi people are “obsessed, ill personalities”? “Emotionally crippled”? That tells me more than I want to know about David Basch and not a damned thing about Shakespeare.


Shakespeare’s “moral achievements”? He wrote plays. For profit.


But the chief problem here is one that no serious scholar would make, not even a serious undergraduate. Basch may have “A” reading of the sonnets. In no way does he, or anyone else, have “THE” reading. There is no single key to reading Shakespeare; there are many. Basch is looking at a cathedral through a keyhole and insisting that not only does he have the fullest possible view, but that he has the only correct one and he demands that everyone else must from now on look only through his keyhole.



From:        Sidney Lubow <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         January 26, 2015 at 11:50:30 AM EST

Subject:    Gay Bard


Jim Carroll suggests that Sonnet 21 seems to be responding to Barnes’ Sonnet 45. It is vital to discuss Sonnet 21 in order to grasp its importance to the story of the Sonnets. The bard seems to be responding more to A Lover’s Complaint rather than to Barnes’ 45.  The “fickle maid”, a “carcass of a beauty spent and done”, (ALC 11) is now a “painted beauty” in Sonnet 21, one the fair youth shed “tears” for and finally seduced. A Muse who reacted to “one particular tear” (289) of “sorrow” in A Lover’s Complaint, the poem I consider to be the prologue and literally, the ‘backstory’ of the Sonnets. It also gives us clues to which Muse has responded to his “youthful suit”.  (ALC 79)


The first time in the Sonnets that the bard mentions any Muse is when the bard refers to her as ‘that Muse’ to disparagingly “point” her out (S,151.9) as one would refer to a fickle Muse who has been rejected. “Is it not with me?”, he asks himself, who will be rejected as well by his alter-ego. To say “that Muse” is as if she came out of nowhere, yet to be alluded to in the story of the Sonnets. But if one allows that she is the ‘fickle maid’ of the first stanza of A Lover’s Complaint, it can lead to a fruitful grasp of sonnet 21 and all the others. She is a very important character of the Sonnets, one of the three ‘private friends’. As a matter of fact she recognized her seducer as the teenager, Narcissus, one of “April’s first-born flowers”, the self-lover in the following sonnet as well as from the poem, A Lover’s Complaint. 


Sonnet 21


So is it not with me as with that Muse

Stirred by a painted beauty to his verse,

Who heaven itself for ornament doth use,

And every fair with his fair doth rehearse,

Making a couplement of proud compare

With Sun and Moon, with earth, and sea's rich gems,

With April's first-born flowers, and all things rare

That heaven's air in this huge rondure hems.

O let me, true in love, but truly write,

And then believe me my love is as fair

As any mother's child, though not so bright

As those gold candles fixed in heaven's air.

Let them say more that like of hearsay well;

I will not praise that purpose not to sell.



‘Father she says, though in me you behold      (ALC line 71)

The injury of many a blasting hour;

Let it not  tell your judgment I am old.

Not age, but sorrow, over me hath power;

I might have yet have been a spreading flower

Fresh to myself, if I had self applied

Love to my self, and to no Love beside.’


Small show of man was yet upon his chin.     (ALC line 99)

His phoenix down began but to appear,


The bard set the scene in ALC and knew she was about to cry her eyes out to the heavens where she came from. There is the suggestion that she is pregnant in A Lover’s Complaint, in the following stanza,


‘For lo, his passion but an art of craft            (ALC line 295)

Even there resolv’d my reason into tears, 

There my white stole of chastity I daft,

Shook off my sober guards and civil fears,

Appear to him as he to me appears:

All melting, though our drops this difference bore,

His poison’d me and mine did him restore.


The ‘child of love’, “any mother’s child” of sonnet 21 was given “life to thee” in the couplet of sonnet 18. 


In the Sonnets he considers her a whore, “the worser spirit, a woman colour’d ill”, (S.144.4) more than “fickle”—one who sells love — but he will not have anything to do with those who sell love, saying he will not “praise” nor ‘appraise’ his love. He has no “purpose” nor does he ‘propose’ to sell love. Berowne in Love’s Labor’s Lost says it clearly, “To things of sale a seller’s praise belongs.” (Act IV, iii, 234)


In sonnet 22 the bard asks:


"My glass shall not persuade me I am old,

So long as youth and thou are of one date"...


“How can I then be elder than thou art?”    


His punishment and his own mind created the “child”, the alter-ego he loved in his glass, and the spiteful Muse, despite being still in love with the bard in the couplet of Sonnet 145. She will give the new Narcissus “eyes to blindness” in the end. 


I hope that Sir Brian Vickers were here in SHAKSPER, instead of arguing in TLS over a gay bard who lusted for every female according to what the Muse herself told us in ALC.


Sid Lubow


Shakespeare’s Playworlds

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.035  Monday, 26 January 2015


From:        Lawrence Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         January 23, 2015 at 6:41:12 PM EST

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Shakespeare’s Playworlds


>Characters in King Lear, according to A. C. Bradley, “do not merely

>inspire in us emotions of unusual strength, but they also stir the
>intellect to wonder and speculation”. Bradley has often been
>criticized for treating Shakespeare’s characters as if they were 

>real people, but he rightly reminds us that >Shakespeare’s work

> encourages such intuitive reflections.


It should not be necessary to apologize for or explain why we cite Bradley, as if we refer to his work only sneeringly, with an implied claim that we are now smarter.  Bradley’s brilliant lectures have been in print continuously for over a century and they are regularly assigned as required reading from secondary schools to post-graduate programs.  L. C. Knights, on the other hand....


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