Was William Shakespeare gay?
It’s time to stop making Shakespeares clearly gay characters straight says top theatre director
Artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, Greg Doran, believes it’s time to stop with the heteronormativity in Shakespeare’s plays.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today program, he said: ‘I am just aware how many times Shakespeare has gay characters, and how sometimes those gay characters are not played as gay, and I think in the 21st century that’s no longer acceptable.’
For example, Doran believes the character of Antonio in The Merchant of Venice is ‘absolutely clearly in love with the young man Bassanio,’ he said. ‘ Sometimes that is kind of toned down.’
He said their bromance is often wrongly portrayed as ‘we chaps are very fond of each other.’
He then explained a process of ‘heterosexualization’ in Shakespeare’s writing.
Shakespeare wrote a cycle of 154 sonnets and 126 of those are addressed to a man. Doran said academics found evidence to suggest male pronouns changed to female pronouns during the Victorian era.
He goes on to theorize Shakespeare was probably gay himself, a common theory in recent years.
The artistic director said: ‘It wasn’t somehow quite kosher for the great national bard to possibly have affections for his own sex and therefore that process, to kind of whitewash through the sonnets.
‘I guess a growing understanding of Shakespeare… makes me realize that his perspective is very possibly that of an outsider.
‘It allows him to get inside the soul of a black general, a Venetian jew, an Egyptian queen or whatever.
‘Perhaps that outsider perspective has something to do with his sexuality,’ he said.
How gay was William Shakespeare?
In recent years, many theorize the famous bard’s sexuality.
One of Shakespeare’s most famous lines was actually written from one man to another.
‘Shall I compare thee to a Summer’s day?’
There are various theories and we’ve compiled a list of 12, ranging from hidden clues in the aforementioned 154 sonnets, as well as his strained relationship with his wife.
The pair married when he was 18 and she 26, while she was already pregnant with their first child.
Most famously, when he died, Shakespeare gave her only one thing – the second best bed.
This is viewed by many as a slight and a claim of how he had come to dislike her, viewing the marriage as a trap away from his free life in London.
To explain this, the ‘second best bed’ in Elizabethan times was the marital bed. The ‘best bed’ went to the guest.
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It’s time to stop making Shakespeares clearly gay characters straight, says top theatre director
Focus keyword: It’s time to stop making Shakespeares clearly gay characters straight says top theatre director