Shakespeare and the Homoerotic

Miles Thompson, Imelda Whelehan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference paperChapterpeer-review


In the 1990s theoretical explorations of Shakespeare have included a cluster of studies of homoeroticism in the plays. The more recent emphasis on exploring contradictions and subversion in the ‘political’ Shakespearean text, as opposed to unities and singular meaning in the works, means that critics are alive to the possibilities of performance overlayered by contemporary meanings, as well as revisiting dominant interpretations of the past. Of course, such investigations are vulnerable to accusations of historical relativism and of the wilful application of modish speculations to a previous era; as Peter Smith observes, ‘Tillyar-dian uniformity is long gone and we fashion the Renaissance in our own fragmented image.’1 To some extent we are trapped by the meanings circulated within our own time, and certainly the meanings of homoeroticism cannot simplistically be applied to Renaissance drama when we speculate on the impact of boy players, audience responses to the spectacle of theatre, sexual references and innuendo. Yet the concerns of the anti-theatricalists confirm that the subversive potential of the homoerotic content of Renaissance drama was a live issue in Shakespeare’s own day, and that cross-dressing was a practice that extended beyond the confines of the stage.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTalking Shakespeare
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
ISBN (Electronic)9780333985748
ISBN (Print)9780333777732
Publication statusPublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


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