Talk:Sexuality of William Shakespeare

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Pardon me for saying but I think this is PC revisionist tosh. Jm butler 19:48, 25 October 2005 (UTC)

Well, it could be responded that denying the homoeroticism in a hundred sonnets about a beautiful young man is panicky right-wing blustering. We can argue like that all day. The point is to be rational. The Singing Badger 20:49, 25 October 2005 (UTC)
Snap, snap, as the kids say! Very nicely put, good Badger. Anville 15:22, 31 October 2005

"(I)t iis a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." This is political claptrap and the article should be eliminated. At most it deserves two lines in a primary article. Wiley Poster (talk) 15:12, 20 June 2011 (UTC)

And what political end is served may I ask? Paul B (talk) 15:15, 20 June 2011 (UTC)

I suppose gratuitously delivering us from "panicky right-wing blustering". "Claptrap" would seem to be the main point, however. Speculation might be a more diplomatic term. TheScotch (talk) 07:30, 6 November 2011 (UTC)


The title leaves something to be desired. Perhaps Sexuality of William Shakespeare would be more appropriate? — Dan | Talk 00:23, 26 October 2005 (UTC)

I wouldn't object to that. The Singing Badger 01:00, 26 October 2005 (UTC)
Doesn't matter to me either way but I think it is splitting hairs. If we change it, though, we should wait until there isn't a link to it from the main page (and be sure to make a redirect from the old page).--Alabamaboy 01:22, 26 October 2005 (UTC)
I should also add I wish this article hadn't been put on the main page as a DYK. When I split it off from the main Shakespeare article, I had cleaned it up and organized it some but I don't think it was ready for all the attention it has received. Thanks to everyone who has been editing it over the last few hours. --Alabamaboy 01:39, 26 October 2005 (UTC)
I'm confused. Why would there come a time when there is no link to here from the main Shakespeare page? And what's a DYK? Pardon my bewildered ignorance. :) The Singing Badger 01:48, 26 October 2005 (UTC)
Someone selected the article as a Do You Know item for the front page (purple box on the right, under "In the News.") This is why the article has been getting so many edits. I just meant that we should wait to change the title, if we do, until there isn't a direct link from the main Wikipedia home page. Usually the DYK links go off the main page within a day or two.--Alabamaboy 01:54, 26 October 2005 (UTC)
Oh.... blimey. Thanks for the info! Clearly I'm not enough of a Wikipediholic to know such things... :) The Singing Badger 02:12, 26 October 2005 (UTC)

I moved the page to Sexuality of William Shakespeare.--Alabamaboy 14:15, 26 October 2005 (UTC)

Since nothing is known about Shakepeare's sexuality other than that he married and had three children, the title of the article should be Speculation about the sexuality of William Shakespeare. TheScotch (talk) 07:23, 6 November 2011 (UTC)

Will's Will[edit]

I added in information about Shakespeare's Will which is often cited in this debate. --Waterspyder 01:24, 26 October 2005 (UTC)

I found my addition was deleted due to "silliness about rings". According to Professor Leslie Shledon PhD, the rings are supposedly significant since the men all purchased memorial rings to commemorate Shakespeare and their friendship. This is often interpreted as an unusual practice. I personally have no idea if it meant they were gay, but they certainly shared a special bond which Shakespeare viewed to be more significant than the bond he shared with his wife if his legal documents are to be trusted. I can make it shorter, but if you would like to reference the link I placed in the article, this source information is available. Additionally there is other information "Shakespeare "Identified" --Waterspyder 04:23, 26 October 2005 (UTC)

Well, it would be good to provide a reference to this Professor Shledon so we know who he is and where you read his opinion. There are many examples of Elizabethan actors making personal bequests to each other in wills, so evidence is needed that it was unusual. Please restore your comment if you wish, but the way it was expressed seemed peculiar to me. Also, please don't spam us with Oxfordian theory, this isn't the place for it.The Singing Badger 11:58, 26 October 2005 (UTC)
If you want to do work on the Oxfordian theory, go to Shakespearean authorship. You will also find on that page a link to an article just on Oxfordian theory. And, just FYI, the Shakespearean authorship already branches off from the main William Shakespeare article. Best, --Alabamaboy 13:14, 26 October 2005 (UTC)
The article also features certain points from the will. I just find it odd that a simple theory that has been presented regarding rings would cause such criticism when the entire debate regarding Shakespeare's sexuality is speculation. Are his sonnets really evidence? Is he decision not to be buried with his wife evidence? Are the rings evidence? Is his portrayal of sexuality a mark of a liberal mind, or simply bawdy humour? I don't know. I studied Shakespeare for 2 years at University and I could not make a definitive statement on the matter. I doubt that unless someone comes across a new body of evidence, no one will be able to make this assertion. What I am attempting to do is to provide yet another theory that has been presented in the past that can be neither proven nor disproven with modern knowledge, as is much of the other material on this page. The theory of the rings is not something that Professor Sheldon necessarily adheres to, but it is certainly a theory that people adhere to in certain academic circles. Heck, Professor Sheldon also showed us some of the "proofs" of the true authorship of Shakespeare which people adhere to, some of which are based ont he number of buttons on Shakespeare's bust. Just because a professor tells you it's out there doesn't mean he believes it which is why I'm not going to present his name as anything other than the source of information, like a tv or radio program. If it really irks you all to such a large degree, then I suppose you might as well remove it. Just because you think its ludicrous does not mean that there are not a significant number of people who believe it. If you want more information on it, I will have to get in touch with my former Professor, unless you accept lecture material.

--Waterspyder 15:18, 26 October 2005 (UTC)

Re: "Are his sonnets really evidence?"

Of course not, but in the interest of preserving the remaining vestages of our sanity we should try to separate speculation about Shakespeare's sexuality and speculation about who wrote his best his plays to the extent we reasonably can. TheScotch (talk) 07:38, 6 November 2011 (UTC)

Elizabethan sexual identities[edit]

I removed this section, which had the following text:

The question of whether an Elizabethan was "gay" in a modern sense is anachronistic, as the concepts of homosexuality and bisexuality did not emerge until the nineteenth century. While the act of sodomy was a crime in the period, there was no word for an exclusively homosexual identity (see History of homosexuality).

The implicit notion here--that to be gay, it is necessary for one to have in mind the concept of homosexuality and a word for a homosexual identity--seems dubious at best. If anyone has a good reason for thinking otherwise, I'd like to hear it. --Simoes 23:18, 25 March 2006 (UTC)

I don't think the passage means that, although it is rather confusing. The problem is, it depends what you mean by 'gay'. If you simply mean 'a man who is sexually attracted to other men', then obviously there must have been Elizabethan men who were. But if you mean 'a man who identifies as belonging to a particular group who are distinguished by their sexual orientation', then it's more complicated because such a concept did not exist at the time. As I understand things, homosexual behaviour was considered to be something that any man could be tempted into, rather than being something that one was born with; in other words, there was no separation of people into 'gay' and 'straight' as there is today.
I hope this answers the question, although I agree that the passage is currently confusing. Can you think of a better way of expressing it? The Singing Badger 23:49, 25 March 2006 (UTC)
Your and Paul B's clarification helps greatly. I tinkered with the paragraph in an attempt to capture your explanations. How is it now? --Simoes 00:42, 26 March 2006 (UTC)
(added below because of edit conflict) I'm restoring the passage because it's important to have some discussion of sexual identity at this time. It's not saying that an Elizabethan can't have been gay because they didn't have the concept, it's saying that notions of differing "sexualities" didn't really exist in the modern sense, and that has some bearing on how we interpret ideas about the relation between forms of love and physical acts. The modern notion of sexual identity implies implies a direct correlation betrween emotional intimacy and physical desire directed to one sex or another. Paul B 00:06, 26 March 2006 (UTC)

Re: "The question of whether an Elizabethan was 'gay' in a modern sense..."

The term gay meant homosexual long, long before the "Gay Rights" movement of the late 1960's (and continuing into the 1970's and beyond). The difference is that gay in this sense was pejorative, strongly connected to gay in the sense of wanton (and thus connected to gay in the sense of merry--which of course is not pejorative, however). TheScotch (talk) 07:55, 6 November 2011 (UTC)

Anachronistic terms[edit]

An editor has been replacing "homosexual" with "homoerotic", saying that the former is an anachronistic term. I did not realize that "homoerotic" was an Elizabethan term. -Will Beback 00:25, 8 May 2006 (UTC)

Yes, I think s/he's been taking rather too literally the idea that "homosexuality" did not exist as a concept at this time. That does not mean that it did not exist as an experience, or even as an orientation/preference. Still, I think I prefer "homoerotic" to the nonsensical term "homosocial". Paul B 00:35, 8 May 2006 (UTC)
Since we can talk about homosexuality in animals, which presumably never read Kertbeny, perhaps "anachronistic" is not the best choice. "Misleading" is a better way to put it, since it is liable to evoke preconcieved notions which are likely to be anachronistic. Haiduc 02:08, 8 May 2006 (UTC)
I think I know what you're trying to say, and it makes some sense. I don't really object to the edits, it was just the descriptions of them which made no sense. Carry on. -Will Beback 08:08, 8 May 2006 (UTC)

Reverted pedophilia focus[edit]

I have reverted the POV edits made by User:Haiduc, which changed to the focus of this article from questions about Shakespeare possibly being gay to him loving young boys. User:Haiduc gave no sources to support this massive change in what the article states. User:Haiduc is welcome to raise this issue on this talk page and try to gain consensus for this change but I have seen no evidence to support this so-called claim about Shakespeare.--Alabamaboy 15:26, 20 May 2006 (UTC)

Thank you for the compliments. My problem is with politically correct speech, which results in mealy-mouthed formulations which can only reduce knowledgeable readers to tears - either of laughter or sorrow, your guess is as good as mine. Thus we have such gems as "... in Shakespeare's day women's roles were played by boys" followed a line later by "... the stage image of men wooing and kissing..." Men, you say?! But I thought we were just informed that these were boys.
I suggest that we not makes fooles of ourselves here with that kind of obfuscation. By masculinizing the Ganymedes of Marlowe, Barnfield, Spenser and Shakespeare, turning the boy into a man, we are deceiving the reader and possibly ourselves. Please be so kind as to restore the deleted material, and simply attach tags to the aspects which you truly believe are simply my own personal views and I will endeavor to back them up with published sources. The deleted material already supported by citations presumably will not need further support. What could you possibly have had in mind when you deleted passages backed by proper references?! And who is Ophelia? Haiduc 04:54, 21 May 2006 (UTC)
Maybe I'm dumb, but what is your reference to Ophelia supposed to mean?
As for the main issue, we have the fact that in Shakespeare's day all female roles were played by males. This fact as such has nothing to do with Shakespeare, Marlowe or any other individual and certainly tells us nothing about anyone's sexuality. Males would be wooing males in every love-scene in every play by every author. Of course you can make a case that some authors use this to play with sexual ambiguity, or to provide homoerotic titilation, but it's difficult to demonstrate. Such things usually happen in comedies, which are all about absurd misunderstandings and reversals of roles. In tragedies and histories the women are still played by men/boys so "the stage image of men wooing and kissing" would be the same in even the "straightest", as it were, of plays. In other, words I see no point arguing that boys rather than men are preferred for pederastic reasons in such instances. The reason is simply that they are better than older men at mimicking females.
As far as I'm aware the age range of the "boy actors" would probably be from around 10 at the youngest to around 20 at the oldest. Some of the younger ones, of course, might be playing child roles rather than female roles. So some of these actors can reasonably be called "boys", others can reasonably be called "men". In most cases, I'd suggest that "youth" would prbably be the best term to use.
The sonnets are a different issue. There's no doubt that the man being addressed (fair lord/fair youth etc) is considerably younger than the poet, but since he is being advised to marry in the first seventeen sonnets, he clearly is not a child. Yes, he is called a "lovely boy" at one point, but even today the terms "boys" and "lads" are commonly used for young men.
My own problem with this article is with uncited assertions about homoerotic relationships. I'm half-unwilling to delete them, because I don't want to seem censorious, but some seem very odd indeed. Take the following: "Others find a possible homoerotic relationship between Leontes and Polixenes in The Winter's Tale. Polixenes speaks of his life since marriage as being a world where "temptations have since then been born to us" in contrast to the idyllic lifestyle he enjoyed while still in the company of young Leontes." I'm at a loss to understand what this is supposed to mean. The passage in question is from a conversation between Polixenes and Hermione, Leontes's wife. Polixenes says that when they were children he and Leontes "were as twinn'd lambs that did frisk i' the sun" and knew no temptations. Hermione replies, "By this we gather you have tripp'd [i.e. given in to temptation] since". Polixenes replies,
O my most sacred lady!
Temptations have since then been born to's; for
In those unfledged days was my wife a girl;
Your precious self had then not cross'd the eyes
Of my young play-fellow.
So Polixenes is saying that since their innocent childhood sexual temptation has been "born" in them, presumably as a result of puberty. This temptation is defined as heterosexual. So how is this evidence of homoeroticism? I'm confused. Paul B 11:19, 21 May 2006 (UTC)
Hi Haiduc, I sympathise with your wish to call a spade a spade, and I think talking about 'youths' rather than men is perfectly accurate (but as Paul has suggested, using the term 'boys' when referring to Elizabethan actors of female roles is common but potentially misleading, given that many of them were in their late teens and 20s).
By the way, the only sourced quotation that Alabamaboy removed was one about C.S. Lewis's "homophobic fulminations"; this is a rather uninformative phrase on its own, and it would be better if you could quote the author's arguments against Lewis, rather than his simple condemnation. The Singing Badger 14:14, 21 May 2006 (UTC)

This whole article skates the bounds of proven historical facts but, since there is a large amount of literature discussing how Shakespeare might have been gay (even if that term was not in existence as we understand it at the time), and since most of what we know about Shakespeare's life in general is informed speculation, the article is worthwhile. My problem with Haiduc's version was that it contained extremely POV unsourced statements, such as this sentence in the lead: "Shakespeare's sonnets and plays sometimes suggest that he might have been attracted to beautiful youths." The current sentence in the lead states "Shakespeare's sonnets and plays sometimes suggest that he might have been bisexual or homosexual." The current sentence is much more NPOV. In short, the use of "young boys" or "youths" implies a certain thing in our modern world and stating such is extremely POV and misleading, especially b/c IF Shakespeare was interested in men the men would have been in their late teens or 20s (and, as the Singer Badger said) and would not have been boys or youths. Best,--Alabamaboy 16:14, 21 May 2006 (UTC)

I suppose it depends how you define 'youth'. Since the word is ambiguous (it could mean teenagers, or just 'young men' in general) it's probably better avoided. Given the language used in the Sonnets, perhaps 'effeminate men' might be a better term?
By the way, Southampton was in his early twenties when he was Shakespeare's patron. The Singing Badger 17:26, 21 May 2006 (UTC)
What we seem to be skating around here is the fact that boys were employed to portray women precisely because men could no longer do that. Thus perforce we are talking about youths who could "pass" as women. To call them effeminate is confusion. Do you consider the boys and male teens in your life to be effeminate?! I doubt it. Yet to call them "men" is to miss the main point - if they were truly men they would no longer be in that position. Thus the use of terms like "homosexual" and "bisexual" colors Shakespeare's putative interests in a false modern light. It is a bit like saying that the Greeks drove cars without specifying that these were not Fords or Renaults. Now few would be so naive as to misinterpret a reference to "cars" in antiquity, but it is the other way around with the history of sexuality. We here may well be aware that love between males at the time was constructed in terms of sodomy and pederasty (read E.K.'s defence of Spenser, paederastice vs. gynerastice) but put most modern readers before modern terms and they will think in terms of egalitarian relationships, while here we are clearly dealing with intergenerational relationships. The fact that the "boyes" were in their mid-teens or their late teens is a detail, and no excuse to stick a beard where none belongs.
Ophelia? Why, I was simply playing off Alabamaboy's pun on pedophilia. I asumed it was intentional. If not, then read it as a suggestion to familiarize oneself more with the topic before wading into such treachorous waters. Haiduc 18:10, 21 May 2006 (UTC)
I saw no pun on "Ophelia". The fact that the word paedophilia contains a homophone is most likely nothing more than coincidence. Alabamaboy's heading does not suggest a pun to me. There is no "skating around" the fact that women's roles were played by young men, in fact I addessed peecisely that topic. If anything you are "skating around" (or rather simply ignoring) the fact that this was a condition of theatrical performance which can tell us nothing in itself about a particular individual's sexuality. It is obvious to anyone that a young man is more likely to pass as a woman than an older one. That tells us nothing about whether or not they were "truly men" and it tells us as much about the sexuality of writers, performers and audience. You also ignore the fact that the cross-dressing scenes are typically between characters who are supposed to be of the same generation. In Twelfth Night for example there is a twin brother and sister, and the gender inversion involves Olivia falling in love with the "wrong" twin. The same is true of other plays that involve gender confusion. Paul B 19:09, 21 May 2006 (UTC)
In general I agree with you Haiduc, the alleged homoeroticism in Shakespeare's work would have been interpreted in his own time as 'Greek love' and there is nothing wrong with mentioning that in the article. But I have to say, it's not quite so simple. I notice that you added into the article the picture of Southampton looking young and unbearded. Yet Shakespeare did not (as far as anyone knows) know Southampton at the time this painting was made. Here is Southampton in 1594, at the time he became Shakespeare's patron and was (allegedly) the subject of the Sonnets. Note the beard and generally 'adult' demeanour as he poses in soldierly attire [1]. I'm afraid you're taking away a beard that belongs!
But anyway, if you can find a published source that interprets the Sonnets in this light, I don't have any major issues with it mentioning this aspect of the subject. The Singing Badger 18:42, 21 May 2006 (UTC)
Haiduc, your ideas about all of this seem like original research, which is not allowed. I accepted the image you had inserted without checking on it. That's why I find it troubling to learn that you chose a younger painting which "made your case" more than the painting representing Southampton when Shakespeare knew him. While I'm assuming good faith here, it almost seems like you were trying to use the article to prove a point (which is also not allowed here). Anyway, if you can provide references, then please do so on this talk page and we'll consider your wording. If you can't, I say leave the article as is. Best, --Alabamaboy 23:05, 21 May 2006 (UTC)
Let me make clear here that my approach to the topic is not that of a Shakespeare expert, which I am not, but more that of a student of same-sex sexuality in history. Feel free to make use of my contributions where they fit and to reject them if you know better, as will most often be the case. In what regards the image of Southampton, I am surprised and stand corrected, and if its use here is inappropriate then it should be removed to his page. But as for my pointing out that same-sex love was of an intergenerational nature in Shakespeare's days being "original research", I am sorry but I do not accept that. Idem for my concern at the cavalier use of modern terminology to describe situations of five hundred years ago. So let's work on a formulation which is not blatantly anachronistic, and which does not say in one place that boys were on the stage and then transmogrify them into "men" when they are kissing "other men". This is not a point that I need to "prove" to anyone. Is this something which we can all agree on, and if so who should make the edits? Haiduc 02:07, 22 May 2006 (UTC)
Glad to hear that the picture mix-up was also a mistake on your part. As for the boys/men issue, I'm not seeing where your issue with this article is. The only reference to this is in the "Sexuality in the plays" section, where it says, "The most often-cited evidence is several comedies, including Twelfth Night and As You Like It, which contain comic situations in which a woman poses as a man, a device that exploits the fact that in Shakespeare's day women's roles were played by boys. While the situations thus presented are heterosexual in terms of the story, the stage image of men wooing and kissing may well have been titillating to those of a homosexual orientation, and while other dramatists occasionally used the same device, Shakespeare seems to have had an exceptional preference for it, using it in five of his plays." This paragraph is accurate (aside from one point I'll make later) b/c the characters are supposed to be adults, hence the "men" reference. The only thing about the paragraph that I am uncertain of is the statement "...a device that exploits the fact that in Shakespeare's day women's roles were played by boys." This statement seems suspect--how exactly does this device exploit the fact that boys played women's roles? I'd like to see a reference for this statement or else remove it.--Alabamaboy 13:06, 22 May 2006 (UTC)

I presume the point made in that paragraph is simply that:

  1. Female roles were played by boys because boys have high voices and smooth skin and thus help create the illusion
  2. The 'cross-dressing comedies' of Shakespeare 'exploit' this fact by constructing stories in which the boy actor spends most of his time wearing male clothes, 'performing' male behaviour; the boy actor's real gender helps create the illusion better than when the boy is simply playing a woman ('exploit' is a weird word choice, I agree; 'use' is simpler).
  3. The latter could be titillating to homosexuals because although the fiction's image of a woman dressed in male clothes and loving a man is 'safe' and 'morally acceptable', in actuality it is performed by a boy (or youth, whatever) and a man.
  4. While this is a fairly frequent situation in the drama of the period (because of point 2) Shakespeare seems to have been unusually fond of it.

I'm not sure it's necessarily true that Viola and Rosalind are pretending to be 'men' rather than boys; Viola for one presents herself as a eunuch, presumably to explain her voice and beardlessness. I presume Haiduc's point is simply that in point 3, the inter-generational nature of the actuality of the stage image would have been interpreted specifically as 'Greek love' rather than the broad term 'homosexual' that is used in the article (which is not to say that 'Greek love' was morally acceptable to the majority of Elizabethans, just that they knew what it was). I don't think this is a particularly controversial thing to say, since there is plenty of material from the period about this issue; lots of Puritan preachers fulminated against the inherent homoeroticism of the theatre. (But for obvious reasons it needs to be worded carefully; in addition, as I've suggested, linking it with the Sonnets and Southampton is not as clear-cut as it might at first seem).

Haiduc, to answer your question, I think you should add the material yourself, with some references, and then see what the Shakespeareans make of it. If you're not very familiar with Elizabethan literature, I would recommend reading books by Stephen Orgel (especially Impersonations) and Bruce R. Smith, both of whom produce sensible and well-respected scholarly work on the representation of same-sex desire in the drama and literature of the period. The Singing Badger 15:55, 22 May 2006 (UTC)

I notified my friend who sent me the picture of Southampton about the debate here, and this is what has to say about it: Well, I sent you two pictures of Southampton. One (the "drag" portrait) was allegedly done when he was 17. I think the other one was done when he was 19, or thereabouts. Shakespeare began writing the sonnets to Southampton when Southampon was 19 -- in 1592. Whether the age of 19 represents an "adult" is I suppose debatable. To me it's either late adolescence or early manhood. What do the Shakespeareans here make of that? Is he correct, regarding the young man's age at the time when Shakespeare started writing his sonnets? Is is appropriate for us to assume that Shakespeare had no previous acquaintance with whoever it was that he wrote his sonnets to? Seems like a bit too "strict constructionist" an approach, though possible in a romantic age of love-at-first-sight ideals. I will look for the other picture (I am at work now and can't get too much into this) and will be curious to hear your opinions. Haiduc 17:07, 22 May 2006 (UTC)
Personally, I see the point you are making. The problem is that Wikipedia does not do original research. Do you have some references to reliable sources about all of this? If so, we need to see it. Otherwise, I'd strongly suggest you write an article about all of this and publish it somewhere (I'd be interested to read it). But without verified sources we can't use this speculation. Best, --Alabamaboy 17:11, 22 May 2006 (UTC)
We don't know the exact date of the sonnets, but if Southampton is the "fair youth" they can't be earlier than 1593, because the dedication to Venus and Adonis in that year clearly indicates that Shakespeare and Southampton were not close. The following year he dedicated Lucrece to him, indicating a close friendship (that's also when the bearded portrait was painted). Many scholars argue that the sonnets were written even later. Paul B 17:26, 22 May 2006 (UTC)
Let's just add that the identification of Southamption with the 'Fair Youth' is of course speculation anyway. I would recommend finding a copy of Katherine Duncan Jones's recent Arden edition of the Sonnets; her introduction cuts through a lot of the speculation and mythology surrounding them (without denying their probably homoerotic nature) and is a good, sensible source of references to the various theories. The Singing Badger 17:36, 22 May 2006 (UTC)
Some interesting links. This one claims that two historians defended Shakespeare against claims he was a pederast. Significant, in that he was not defended against claims he was a homosexual. The Guardian also trots out Ingram and Redpath's refutation of his pederasty, but only after citing his sexuality using exactly that term. Cochran, in a note on his article on Don Leon mentions Shakespeare sonnets "to boys." I would also read the article on Oscar Wilde since he includes Shakespeare in his defense of intergenerational homosexuality. Is any of this clearcut? History rarely is. Thus we have an obligation to convey its complexity. It is the filtration of history, and of the conversation which evokes it, which is "original research". Haiduc 02:45, 23 May 2006 (UTC)
Hang on there, now! This article hardly attempts to "filter" history ot to "defend" Shakespeare against the claims that he was a pederast or a homosexual. It attempts to sum up the serious discussion on the subject. The problem is complex because the history of sexuality itself is extraordinarily opaque and is contested by scholars. There are serious disputes about how legitimate it is to apply modern language concerning sexual identity to the period, and about how to interpret loving language of the kind that would not commonly be used today. Equally it is very doubtful whether we can deduce anything from the fact that males played females in plays, which was required by law. As regards the Fair Lord (aka fair youth), we don't know who he was or even if he was a real person. I think you will find that all of the editors here are well aware of Wilde's comments at his trial and of his own contribution to the debate (see William Hughes (Mr. W. H.)). Paul B 09:35, 23 May 2006 (UTC)
Well, that brings us to the roots of this whole debate. Modern censorship of same-sex history is of two kinds. First, if at all possible, deny that the man (whoever he might be) had any erotic interest in males. If that can't be done, as with Shakespeare, then make damn sure you turn things things around so the it seems like he was into adults his own age.
In keeping with both the common sense reading of his texts, and with historical usage, I came in here pointing out that the love objects in question were not full-fledged men but youths. By way of response, my contribution was branded with the slur of "pedophilia" (mis-spelled) and I was instructed to "find references" to the fact that the sun rises in the east, as if there were any references in the article for the implausible (apparent) claim that the affections were of an egalitarian nature, or that the brand of homosexuality discussed was of an androphilic nature rather than a pederastic one.
I draw your attention to the first post in this section: "I have reverted the POV edits made by User:Haiduc, which changed to the focus of this article from questions about Shakespeare possibly being gay to him loving young boys." A youth is not a child, nor is "pederasty" used as a term describing the sexual hunt for little children, not in serious academic writing at any rate. The description of Shakespeare's love interests, or denial of them, in pederastic terms is not a "massive change." It is simply focusing the discussion in accurate terms. If we are going to discuss hypotheses of homosexuality, refuted or not, it behooves us to specify which kind of homosexuality we are talking about, so as not to mislead our readers, most of whom will be gulled into misconception by the unqualified use of such modern terms as "bisexuality" and "homosexuality." As for his "being" or "not being" a pederast, who knows and who cares? We are here simply to record that the issue is being, and has long been, analyzed, and what people have said about it. Haiduc 10:46, 23 May 2006 (UTC)
We can neither deny nor assert that the man Shakespeare "had any erotic interest in males". It can't be denied and it can't be asserted with any kind of confidence. As for you second comment ("make damn sure you turn things things around so the it seems like he was into adults his own age") I thnik you are the one who is "turning things around" here, by projecting both modern anxieties about paedophilia into the debate and modern gay rights concerns (pedophilia, btw, is not a misspelling. It's a common US spelling). You may be right about Alabamaboy's concerns, but not, I think, about most contributors. As for the reference to "egalitarianism", you seem to forget that most commentators - admittedly not all - take the view that the Youth was of considerably higher social status than Shakespeare. The best way to resolve this is simply to expand the discussion, not to close it down. That would mean more exploration of Elizabethan interpretations of Greek love, but also don't forget that the putatively homoerotic content in the plays is mostly not about generational difference, so there is no single "kind" of homosexuality at issue here. Paul B 11:20, 23 May 2006 (UTC)
The discussion has nothing to do with pedophilia, despite the title of this section, misspelled: "Reverted pedophelia focus". We are in agreement that nothing can be asserted or denied, as I already mentioned. As for my projecting modern anxieties, you have jumped the gun. I focused the discussion where it needed to go, others brought the anxieties later. The egalitarianism has to do with sexual relations, not social status - don't forget that I am here not as a Shakesperean but as a historian of sexuality. Expand is what I would like to do, as long as we are not eliding the nature of the interests being discussed, and their contemporary construction. As for the plays vs. the sonnets, I am out of my depth and will leave others to refine the argument. But from what I have read, nor is that so clear cut, such as with Bassanio, and various mentions of Ganymede. Haiduc 11:46, 23 May 2006 (UTC)
As several editors have stated here, no one should "focus the discussion on where it needed to go." Forcing an article to "go where it needed to go" when there is no consensus to do so is not what Wikipedia is about. As Paul B said, there was "no single 'kind' of homosexuality at issue here." To try and make the article into that is POV. I agree with Paul B that the article can be expanded to include info on all of this--as long as reliable sources are provided! If Haiduc is indeed "focusing the discussion in accurate terms" then he/she should be able to provide reliable sources of information. If Haiduc can not, then I question how accurate you are being. I also must state that I have not questioned Haiduc's motives in raising all of these issues and must ask him/her to not question my reasons for doing the same. I want this article to be as accurate as possible. I should also point out that in previous centuries the term "pederast" was, as our own Wikipedia article puts it (in a referenced statement, no less), "a polite, learned term, an alternative to ugly words like 'bugger' and 'Sodomite.'"
As a result, Haiduc is correct when he/she states that writers in previous centuries defended Shakespeare from being a pederast. However, they were likely using the term as a polite way of saying homosexual. In addition, those opposed to homosexuality in both ancient and modern times often attacked any perceived homosexual by accusing them of loving young boys (as mentioned in one of Haiduc's links above). As with ALL modern sexual terms, we have to be very careful in applying them to ancient times. The reason I opposed Haiduc's edits was that he/she made a blanket, unsourced change to the article which, to the average reader who knows nothing about pederasty, made it sound like Shakespeare was engaging in pedophelia (and yes, I know the difference but, as I said, the way the lead was written was not clear to the average reader). As Haiduc said, we are not here to "mislead our readers, most of whom will be gulled into misconception by the unqualified use of such modern terms as 'bisexuality' and 'homosexuality.'" To his/her quote, though, I would add forcing his modern views of pederasty onto Shakespeare's times. Anyway, I repeat my initial point: Where are the references on this?--Alabamaboy 13:43, 23 May 2006 (UTC)

Just for the record, I've made some changes to the 'plays' section: I changed the sentence about 'men wooing and kissing' to 'same-sex wooing and kissing' (which hopefully covers everything disussed above...!) I've rearranged the section on the Merchant of Venice (by the way, a reference is needed for the 'mentoring relationship' interpretation, or it'll have to go). And I deleted the Winter's Tale reference after reading Paul's points above; clearly this is an unreferenced misreading of the lines. The Singing Badger 16:53, 23 May 2006 (UTC)

All changes by you and Paul B work for me.--Alabamaboy 19:22, 23 May 2006 (UTC)

Alabamaboy, judging by your last entry, some might label you a haiducophile (or haiducophobe). Let's not personalize this, it is not about you or me. You might not be amused by my attempt to illuminate the intergenerational aspects of Shakespeare's love interests, I may not be amused by your waving the red herring of pedophilia where it does not belong, but so what, in the end? I have begun to clean up some of the confusing aspects of the article, I replaced an image which was not properly documented with one that is (note, now that we are questioning one another's image contributions, how unlikely it is that the previous image depicted a 20 year old Wriothesley). I hope that this is acceptable to everyone. Haiduc 01:43, 24 May 2006 (UTC)

What the heck? Haiduc? An outlaw hater? How amusing. Anyway, most of your edits are fine but I agree with The Singing Badger that the Wilde reference is not valid b/c it is fiction. I agree with the Singing Badger's edits which left this info in but made reference to the fiction aspect. In addition, how is the new image of Henry Wriothesley more plausible and documented? Please give this documentation. While I'm not opposed to the image per se, the fact that you say it is more documented without giving that documentation troubles me. Again, let's keep from attacking each other personally. After your message on my talk page, I thought you'd agreed to not attack each other but your message above seems to defy the spirit of what you were saying.--Alabamaboy 12:16, 24 May 2006 (UTC)
I too thought we had stood down. Just click on the image for the documentation, it is in the image page. I will have to look around and see how people have been reading Wilde. He could hardly be expected to speak openly, likewise Shakespeare. That's why it is a bit tricky to contrast the tone of the dark lady poems with that of the fair lord ones, things were never equal and what could be declared openly on one side had to be whispered on the other, which reflects not on the strength of the interest as much as on the strength of the gallows. Haiduc 17:10, 24 May 2006 (UTC)
I don't think there's harm in mentioning Wilde's theory, as it's perenially popular - the fictionality of Wilde's story isn't really the issue, it's the lack of evidence for the existence of Willie Hughes beyond some presumed puns. In the story, someone disappoints the protagonist by forging a picture of Hughes, and the story is about clinging to a belief in the face of a complete lack of evidence. It's kind of profound. But it doesn't deserve more than a few words in this article IMO. The Singing Badger 18:35, 24 May 2006 (UTC)

Modern interpretations[edit]

While reading up on this I cam across an abstract claiming "The poems directed to the youth have a long history of strategic critical neglect, allocation to an otherwise virtually empty genre of male friendship poems. More recently, however, they have been generally regarded as homoerotic poems." I find the suggested evolution from friendship to erotism interesting, and also I am intrigued by the claim that now the poems are "generally" thought to be homoerotic. Is Chandler's synopsis accurate, as far as others here know? Haiduc 00:34, 25 May 2006 (UTC)

I'm no expert on sonnet criticism, but Katherine Duncan-Jones's introduction to the 1997 Arden edition (Arden is a highly respected series of Shakespeare editions) includes a lengthy discussion of the long history of scholars who have tried to explain away the sonnets as 'friendship poems'. In response to the claim that many Elizabethan men had written passionate poetry to their friends, Duncan-Jones simply says "They had not" (p. 33). I think scholars are increasingly acknowledging this (although obviously not everyone). The Singing Badger 00:46, 25 May 2006 (UTC)


The following passage has been added, without citation:

In Romeo and Juliet, Mercutio's speech is littered with homosexual imagery: he talks of 'open arses' and 'poppering pear's (i.e. the penis and scrotum) and the 'blind bow boy's butt shaft'. His famous 'Queen Mab' speech is an attempt to woo Romeo, which Romeo doesn't understand, leading leading the frustrated Mercutio to say that Romeo's 'bosom' is 'frozen'.

The "blind bow boy's butt-shaft" is of course cupid's arrow, which has pierced Romeo with love of Juliet. The expression is typical of the crude language associated with Mercutio in these passages, in which his semi-pornographic imagery is set against Romeo's "romantic" language. The other lines are in this speech:

If love be blind, love cannot hit the mark.
Now will he sit under a medlar tree,
And wish his mistress were that kind of fruit
As maids call medlars, when they laugh alone.
Romeo, that she were, O, that she were
An open et caetera, thou a poperin pear!
Romeo, good night: I'll to my truckle-bed;
This field-bed is too cold for me to sleep:
Come, shall we go? (Act 2, scene 1)

Of course the context is explicitly heterosexual. Mercutio is saying that Romeo wishes that "his mistress" were a medlar fruit, which was supposed to resemble the female genitals, and that he, Romeo, were a fruit that resembles male genitals, so that they could have sex in the orchard with the other fruit.

The reference to wooing and to a "frozen bosom" is is this passage,

True, I talk of dreams,
Which are the children of an idle brain,
Begot of nothing but vain fantasy,
Which is as thin of substance as the air
And more inconstant than the wind, who wooes
Even now the frozen bosom of the north,
And, being anger’d, puffs away from thence,
Turning his face to the dew-dropping south. (Act I, Scene iv)

You can argue that this refers to Mercutio's attempts to convince Romeo of the valuelessness of dreams, but it seems a bit of a stretch to say that the Queen Mab speech was an attempt to seduce Romeo. The other passage is explicitly sexual, so I suppose one could argue that there is a homoerotic subtext there, especially as the last line refers to Mercutio's exclusion from the orchard-bed. But we cannot say that this is simply what the verse directly says, since it doesn't, and in any case we need a citation from a scholar for homoerotic readings. Paul B 09:47, 7 July 2006 (UTC)


The (London) Times today features a remarkable new portrait from the Cobbe Collection which scholars have confirmed is the original of the famous portrait in the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington. (,,2-2262981,00.html) As it shows Shakespeare as a younger man, I think this would be a more appropriate image for this page, especially as the Chandos portrait currently displayed is already reproduced on the main Shakespeare page. Also, I think the other recently discovered Cobbe portrait of Southhampton as a young man is a match for it (PDF here: and should replace the current portrait on the page. Yes/no? Engleham 10 July, 2006

There are three images recognised as likely to be portraits of WS. This is not one of them, as the very article you cite makes clear. On your other changes, it's worth noting several points. Whether some individuals identified themselves as exclusively same-sex oriented is not the same as a broader cultural recognition of such an identity. Hence the discussion of the usefulness of terms such as homosexual, bisexual and heterosexual remains pertinent. On "sodomy", don't forget that this was not construed as a distinctively homosexual practice, indeed Pietro Aretino's Lust Sonnets, which repeatedly recommend the practice, are exclusively heterosexual in orientation. Paul B 12:42, 11 July 2006 (UTC)

Complete irrelavance of the subject[edit]

Does any of this actually matter? As far as I can see, there are only two reasons for discussing it at all:

  • To be able to hold up Shakespeare as a gay icon and say 'Look! One of the most respected artisits in the world was gay! Being gay's great!'
  • To be able to say Shakespeare was a deviant pervert whose works should be banned.

Both of these are pointless. True acceptance of a group of people in society comes when it doesn't matter what you are. Discussions like this just make the respective camps look foolish in front of the vast majority of people who simply don't care.

Shakespeare's gift to humanity was a brilliant set of works. Enjoy them for what they are. Don't try to make them what you want them to be. 09:28, 25 August 2006 (UTC)

It is a subject in which both scholarly and popular literature exists. Indeed all Shakespeare's non-dramatic poems are explicitly and primarily about sex and desire, so it is central to his literary art. Paul B 09:44, 25 August 2006 (UTC)
It could lead to a better understanding of his work, as compared to edited versions which have truly perverted his works, so to speak. Kechvsf 08:47, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

Re: "It is a subject in which both scholarly and popular literature exists. Indeed all Shakespeare's non-dramatic poems are explicitly and primarily about sex and desire, so it is central to his literary art.":

It is a subject is which "literature" (so to speak) exists, but none of Shakespeare's works necessarily have anything whatsoever to do with Shakespeare's sexuality, which is different from "sex and desire" in general. This argument is bait-and-switch. TheScotch (talk) 12:46, 6 November 2011 (UTC)

Updated article[edit]

I've updated the article with info on Shakespeare's possible heterosexual affairs, added references, and used the term "possible" throughout the article to achieve a more NPOV wording. Let me know what people think.--Alabamaboy 14:59, 23 January 2007 (UTC)

One or two points. I don't think Shakespeare in Love should be cited as evidence of anything, though it might be mentioned in connection to the Manningham anecdote, since the film briefly refers to it in the brothel scene, where the "William the Conquerer" punch-line is used. The anecdote is essentially a dirty joke. It may or may not be based on any real incident. At the most it suggests that S was thought to be the kind of guy who would, as it were, take an opportunity to get-off with a theatre groupie. I prefer the "Sexual identities" header to the "Bi-sexual" one, as it emphasises the fact that sexual orientation was not a clearly defined concept at the time. This stuff about rings has been around for a while, but it's totally uncited. Is there anyone who actually thinks that this indicates bisexuality? It seems like a projection of modern ideas about the significance of rings. Straight guys don't buy eachother rings these days, but this is now; that was then. I think that should go altogether. Paul B 15:27, 23 January 2007 (UTC)
By the way, the "hate away" is from Sonnet 145. It's not usually cited as ebvidence that he couldn't stand her, but that he loved her - though many scholars doubt that it refers to her at all. Paul B 15:33, 23 January 2007 (UTC)
At the least it should be added that this is far more commonly cited as evidence of love for Anne than as evidence of resentment, and that that was the interpretation proposed by Andrew Gurr in the article which first drew attention to the claimed pun. [2] [3] Paul B 16:07, 23 January 2007 (UTC)
I totally agree the annecdote likely isn't real but it is one of the few annecdotes from his life and the only one we have regarding any sexual identity. Since this article is almost all speculation, we should keep one of the few sourced annecdotes from his time period. I also agree about the rings. However, since people raise this issue with regards to this sexuality issue the article should mention it while also indicating that it's likely not a big deal (as the article does). As for Shakespeare in Love, that merely shows that popular culture accepts the idea of him having heterosexual affairs more than him possibly having affairs with men. Finally, I'm ok changing the header to "sexual identites." I've made that change and did a slight reorganization to make the header work. Let me know what you think.--Alabamaboy 15:42, 23 January 2007 (UTC)
I'd be ok listing the sonnet 145, if you want. The reference I give for that, though, clearly states that's why the author believes Shakespeare wasn't happily married. It's also an extremely solid reference (none of that website or blog stuff :-).--Alabamaboy 15:44, 23 January 2007 (UTC)
Well, I haven't read that book, but it seems a very idiosynctatic interpretation of a verse that states "I hate" from hate away she threw, and saved my life, saying "not you". Paul B 15:53, 23 January 2007 (UTC)

I agree. Personally, I think all of this speculation about Shakespeare's sexuality borders on the extremely unprovable. That said, if we're going to have an article on this subject I want it to be extremely ballanced, NPOV, and well referenced. That "hate away" item is one prominent scholar's view and should be in to ballance other items in the article. --Alabamaboy 15:58, 23 January 2007 (UTC)

And now I'm going to totally reverse myself. You are correct about the "Hate away" sonnet. I messed up the info. Stephen Greenblatt mentions that sonnet to say that Shakespeare once loved Anne but then moved away from that love in their later years. I'll correct this immediately in the article. My apologies for this mistake. I'd also wondered about that sonnet and didn't realize I'd messed up the info myself.--Alabamaboy 16:02, 23 January 2007 (UTC)

Doctor Who reference[edit]

I've removed reference to annoyance, and sighing on the Doctor's part in this minor pop reference. I detected no exasperation here. If anything, the Doctor seemed quite flattered, and he's flirted with Captain Jack (who is bisexual) in the past. The executive producer of the program, and of the spin-off Torchwood which stars John Barrowman as Captain Jack and features homosexual relationships of various degrees involving every single main character, is gay and famously produced the Manchester-based "Queer as Folk" serial which had a long-running US-Canadian remake of the same name. --Tony Sidaway 10:52, 10 April 2007 (UTC)

Article's title[edit]

An editor recently moved this article from the current Sexuality of William Shakespeare to William Shakespeare's sexual orientation. The stated reason is that there are other articles on Wikipedia using this "...'s sexual orientation" format. Personally, I don't support this change because term "sexual orientation" is a loaded term which, as with the term gay, would not be very relevant during Shakespeare's age b/c all our definitions of sexuality--straight, gay, bisexual--were interpreted in different ways then. There is also the issue that a ton of articles link to the current title. Is there consensus to make this change or leave it be?--SouthernNights (talk) 00:18, 6 October 2008 (UTC)

I agree. "Sexuality" is a broader term than "sexual orientation". It covers things like promiscuity and celibacy which aren't necessarily orientations. It might be better to move the Baden Powell article to this style rather than the other way around. ·:· Will Beback ·:· 00:34, 6 October 2008 (UTC)
Well put. I totally agree. But until you stated this I didn't realize that sexuality is indeed a broader term. Thanks for "broadening" my mind. :-)--SouthernNights (talk) 00:59, 6 October 2008 (UTC)

Agree with both of you. Sexuality of William Shakespeare is the better title. No opinion on Baden Powell's article(!) AndyJones (talk) 07:32, 6 October 2008 (UTC)

OK. I would like to see consistency on this matter, and if that means moving the Baden-Powell article instead, that would also work. *** Crotalus *** 02:09, 7 October 2008 (UTC)
I think consistency can be overrated. Each article is different, and language itself is often inconsistent. The article should have a title proper to the topic. If the Baden-Powell article is specifically about orientation, then that's what it should be called, though "Sexuality" has the advantage that it would allow discussion of more than this one restricted subject. Paul B (talk) 11:33, 7 October 2008 (UTC)

Bisexuality in lead[edit]

A recent addition to the lead confidently states: "Many scholars now believe that Shakespeare was bisexual." According to WP:LEAD "The lead section should briefly summarize the most important points covered in an article". I don't see this in the text, and I'm inclined to remove the sentence. A {{who}} tag added. --Old Moonraker (talk) 06:54, 3 December 2008 (UTC)

Agreed. I don't think that "many scholars" say any such thing. Paul B (talk) 08:00, 3 December 2008 (UTC)
Done. --Old Moonraker (talk) 10:08, 3 December 2008 (UTC)

Shakespeare probably initially loved Hathaway...[edit]

The clause "Shakespeare probably initially loved Hathaway..." was speculation. In fact, the very next word in the sentence identified it as such. Unless there's some way of presenting this as a statement of fact rather than an opinion, it doesn't belong in the article. - Jason A. Quest (talk) 02:16, 8 December 2008 (UTC)

That statement is from Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare by Stephen Greenblatt, W. W. Norton & Company, 2004, Page 143. The citation covers the entire sentence. That Shakespeare likely loved Hathaway is the view of a respected scholar. As for "facts," the entire article deals with speculation. At least in this case the speculation is cited with a reliable reference for a reputable scholar.--SouthernNights (talk) 03:02, 8 December 2008 (UTC)
As SouthernNights says, it's entirely legitimate to include the opinions of scholars, even if they are speculations. Much of the detail of Shakespeare's life is guessed at by scholars - the identity of the Dark Lady, the influences on his plays, the events of the "lost years" etc. Paul B (talk) 10:24, 8 December 2008 (UTC)
I suspect the trouble is that given the title of the article there is a tendency to give the various fringe (and that word is not used in a dismissive or derogatory manner here) theories undue weight. When Greenblatt says (and, more importantly, we quote him as saying) "probably" and "initially" he's implying that Shakespeare possibly never loved his wife, and certainly mostly didn't; which is patent nonsense given what little actual data is available. There is quite a lot of scholarly speculation about Shakespeare's love life and sexual proclivities, but we need to be exceedingly careful in how we report on it so we don't end up where one could claim "Wikipedia says Shakespeare was gay, never loved his wife, and had extra-marital affairs with several men and women". Rather, the impression one should be left with after reading the article is "A lot of biographers have speculated about these things; there are a few odd bits of evidence for which there is as yet no explanation; but there is not enough data to support much more than that Shakespeare married young, had three children, moved to London to write plays and poems, and returned home to his wife and children before he died." In particular, the scholarly consensus is that he was straight as an arrow and had an entirely average marriage, so that needs to be our baseline from which we can report on what the various scholars have speculated on and why. --Xover (talk) 10:58, 8 December 2008 (UTC)
Though I'm not much of a fan of "Shakespeare was gay/bisexual" rhetoric, I don't think we can reasonably say that Greenblatt is "implying that Shakespeare possibly never loved his wife", except in the rather generalised sense that anything is possible. I know of no consensus that Shakespeare was "straight as an arrow", except in the sense that there was nothing especially out of the ordinary about his behaviour to his wife. Paul B (talk) 14:25, 8 December 2008 (UTC)
Which is exactly my point: the article as it stands seems to take for granted that he was either gay, or had affairs, or both, and then grants that there's a possibility that when all the available data suggests he was happily married with three children then that just might be so. This is down to how things are phrased, what bits of, say, Greenblatt are quoted, etc.; the second paragraph of the first section gives entirely the wrong impression. We know he married Anne, that he had three children with her, and that while he was away in London he did visit Stratford, and that he moved back there towards the end of his life; so Occam tells us that we can infer that he was straight and loved his wife (as, say, Schoenbaum is careful to point out). That doesn't mean we shouldn't cover the various speculation into dark mistresses and fair youths—like we should cover the tendency of some scholars over the years to try to explain it away in order to "protect" Shakespeare from the "taint" of infidelity or homosexuality—but we should be careful to label it as speculation. In the absence of any evidence to the contrary, the evidence we do have that suggests he was straight and happily married man must, and does, take precedence. --Xover (talk) 16:23, 8 December 2008 (UTC)
To say that there was nothing out of the ordinary about his behaviour to his wife is not to say that "all the available data suggests he was happily married with three children". Three children, yes, but there's no data to say he was "happy" or that his relationship was based on "love" or being "straight". I think you are using models of romance and sexual orientation that are inappropriate to a period when marriage without divorce simply socially expected, which is why "Occam" does not apply here. There is also nothing remotely out of the ordinary about a man having affairs if he is away from his wife for long periods. It's very commonplace. No-one would have expected that to lead to the break up of a marriage as it might today. Paul B (talk) 17:17, 8 December 2008 (UTC)

(outdent) Let me ask a quick control question here. Would you agree that the following is an accurate and unbiased summation of Shakespeare's marriage?

Shakespeare probably initially loved Hathaway. However, after only three years of marriage Shakespeare left his family and moved to London, possibly because he felt trapped by Hathaway. Other evidence to support this belief is that he and Anne were buried in separate graves and, as has often been noted, Shakespeare's will makes no specific bequeath to his wife aside from "the second best bed".

--Xover (talk) 20:02, 8 December 2008 (UTC)

As was said before, almost this entire article is based on speculation--well referenced speculation by scholars and academics, but speculation none the less. That is why the lead states firmly that all of this is speculation, and that the only known facts around this issue is that he married Anne Hathaway and they had three children. The article does not take for granted that he was gay or had affairs; the article clearly states that this is speculation.
As for your summation of the marriage, it is an accurate summary, but it lacks all the other information that is in the current paragraph on this article--information which is part of the scholarly debate around this issue and so should be in this article. As such, the paragraph should remain as is.--SouthernNights (talk) 23:12, 8 December 2008 (UTC)

The passage now begins "Stephen Greenblatt argues that Shakespeare probably initially loved Hathaway, and I consider this an improvement. All speculation should be as directly and as immediately and as clearly linked to the speculator as possible--and the speculator should be notable. TheScotch (talk) 11:00, 12 November 2011 (UTC)

Should this article exist?[edit]

The majority of sources in this article don't directly relate to a scholarly discussion of Shakespeare's sexuality, and the most provocative passages of this article lack citations entirely. I'm sympathetic to the "queer theory" school of literary criticism, but perhaps their scholarly energy might be better expended in a discussion of sexuality and gender roles within Shakespeare's text as opposed to half-baked theories about the personal life of a man about whom we know so little. I'm tagging this for "expert attention." (talk) 04:49, 18 January 2009 (UTC)

Please be specific about the most "provocative statements", otherwise your tag is pointless. Paul B (talk) 10:54, 18 January 2009 (UTC)
"Provocative" statements without citations should generally be tagged with {{cn}}, btw. --Xover (talk) 11:34, 18 January 2009 (UTC)
I'm going to remove the "expert" tag on this article b/c the this anonymous editor is disagreeing with the entire existence of this article, not with it being at an expert level. This article was written by the top Shakespeare editors on Wikipedia and uses a number of expert citations to support the info presented.--SouthernNights (talk) 15:19, 18 January 2009 (UTC)
As no physical proof of Shakes' sexuality exists, as well as the fact that he never explicitly attempts to draw attention to it in his writings, and the fact that he has been dead for hundreds of years, we can only assume that any "controversy" is based on what people deviate from his writings, or on what they have heard from others reporting on it. So in MY PERSONAL OPINION,(...), this is a non-issue. However, in wiktuality, I believe this does not dserve its own article because it is a rumor page. It is a detatched forum for people who have written things in the past - no actual facts are provided, only opinions. Why does not Clay Aiken deserve a similar page? I'm sure thousands of tabloids believe he's gay. Asperger, he'll know. (talk) 00:58, 10 March 2009 (UTC)
Is this gibberish supposed to tell us something? Paul B (talk) 14:12, 7 March 2009 (UTC)
Now, be gentle, Paul. I'll revise it so it's more to the point. And I question your use of us, as you are in the first-person singular. Asperger, he'll know. (talk) 00:38, 10 March 2009 (UTC)

Maybe he was just camp/flamboyant?[edit]

Mens' style of clothing of the past may seem unusual to us but that doesn't mean the men who wore them were homosexual. In the 1700s men had long hair and tights but now that is considered efeminate. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:45, 31 May 2010 (UTC)

Sexuality and Best Bed Conundrums Explained[edit]

It was the fashion at the time to write sonnets to other men in a romantic vein: Shakespeare was not gay, he was just using the poetic style in vogue at the time. Also the "best bed" was left with the house, like the fireplace or the doors, hence his wife got the second best bed. These are things I remember from studying Shakespeare, can't remember where for RS though. And Shakespeare had to leave Stratford-on-Avon for poaching, some say deer, others say rabbits. A lot of myths are distributed by grade school teachers and high school teachers who haven't studied Shakespeare and just re-iterate the myths they themselves heard in school. Ignorance breeds ignorance. (talk) 22:08, 23 April 2011 (UTC)

Indeed. Just like the poaching story. Paul B (talk) 14:27, 24 April 2011 (UTC)
I disagree. Ignorance breeds ignorance? What you have said bears nothing but that matter. If he was, so he was. If he was not, he was not. We cannot be certain, which also brings an additional magical layer to his writing. Stephenjamesx (talk) 17:39, 24 April 2011 (UTC)

"Possible affairs with women" section[edit]

Re: "While this is one of the few surviving contemporary anecdotes about Shakespeare, some scholars are sceptical of its validity."

I don't think this passage is as clear as it should be to distinguish sceptical about whether the incident described actually took place and sceptical about whether the anecdote is authentically contemporareous. I'd change it myself if I were sure which kind of "validity" is meant, but I'm not.

Re: "Still, the anecdote suggests that at least one of Shakespeare's contemporaries (Manningham) believed that Shakespeare was heterosexual, even if he was not 'averse to an occasional infidelity to his marriage vows'.

What is the "even" supposed to mean here? Also: Rather than footnoting this supposition--what the "anecdote suggests"--, the article should state in its main text, immediately and clearly, who the supposer is. Otherwise we are implying the supposition is objectively true and the citation is in support of it being objectively true, which is disingenuous. TheScotch (talk) 07:02, 13 November 2011 (UTC)

The criticisms of the style remain unaddressed, but I have firmed up the dating: it is "authentically contemporaneous". --Old Moonraker (talk) 10:34, 14 November 2011 (UTC)

Edits by Roscelese[edit]

I have removed a number of additions by Roscelese. Here is the explanation:

I removed the statement that "many of which, including Sonnet 18 'Shall I compare thee to a summer's day', are love poems addressed to a man, the 'Fair Lord', and which contain references to sexuality between men." This is misleading. In fact the sex of the recipient of sonnet 18 is never identified in the poem. It is assumed to be addressed to the 'fair youth' because of its place in the sequence. As for the term 'love poem'. This is misleading, because expressions of love for a man are not uncommon in literature of the time. As for "contain references to sexuality between men", this is weasley language. There are no references whatever to sex between men, and "sexuality between men" is such a vague phrase it might mean anything (two blokes boasting to each other about how many women they've slept with could be said to be "references to sexuality between men"). The statement should not be given as if it is somehow undisputed fact. The sentence added at the end says "Wells later commented in 2012 that Shakespeare was bisexual". He says no such thing. He says he may have been. Yes, of course he may have been, and he may not have been. We don't know - or even if "bisexual" is a meaningful concept for the era. Wells' exact words are "It [the question of his sexuality] goes back centuries, especially because some of Shakespeare’s sonnets are unquestionably addressed to a male. Shakespeare had three children so clearly was not wholly gay. But he may have loved men as well as women." Paul B (talk) 11:42, 11 January 2012 (UTC)

If you disagree with the wording, why don't you reword (quote, for example), instead of removing sourced material? Why this repeated removal of the summary of the third section, in violation of WP:LEAD which states that the lead must summarize the body? Wherefore the ridiculous claim that we don't know who Sonnet 18 was written for, when scholars agree that it was addressed to the same man the other sonnets are addressed to? –Roscelese (talkcontribs) 17:55, 11 January 2012 (UTC)
I did reword it. The Wells statement adds nothing new to what is there already. Misrepresenting a source is pretty serious, you know. I've no idea what you mean by "repeated removal of the summary of the third section". It is not a sumnmary. It is a series of mistatements. There was already a summary. Paul B (talk) 18:04, 11 January 2012 (UTC)
Your definition of "reword" is very interesting if it includes "remove." Let's stick with the conventionally accepted definitions of words. –Roscelese (talkcontribs) 19:25, 11 January 2012 (UTC)

Adding sexual orientation category to this biography may be a WP:CAT/R#Sexuality violation[edit]

WP:CAT/R#Sexuality For a dead person, there must be a verified consensus of reliable published sources that the description is appropriate. For example, while some sources have claimed that William Shakespeare was gay or bisexual, there is not a sufficient consensus among scholars to support categorizing him as such. Similarly, a living person who is caught in a gay prostitution scandal, but continues to assert their heterosexuality, can not be categorized as gay. Categories that make allegations about sexuality – such as "closeted homosexuals" or "people suspected to be gay" – are not acceptable under any circumstances. If such a category is created, it should be immediately depopulated and deleted. Note that as similar categories of this type have actually been attempted in the past, they may be speedily deleted (as a G4) and do not require another debate at Wikipedia:Categories for discussion. User: Pgarret (talk) 06:36, 12 November 2012 (UTC).

We need reliable sources for category claims. It may well be that such sources are indeed available and you can list them in the article - but if not, then who is saying that these people fit the bill? Just deciding that you think they fit the description is Original Research - and that's not allowed here. I need to see a few reliable little blue number in each categorization that links to a reference document that can be examined to confirm Basic Academic rigour

Most people that are listed in the misleading LGBT categorization can also be connected with the following:
-Heteroflexibility -is a form of a sexual orientation or situational sexual behavior characterized by minimal homosexual activity despite a primarily heterosexual sexual :orientation that is considered to distinguish it from bisexuality.
-Pansexual- A person who is fluid in sexual orientation and/or gender or sex identity.
-Polyamory- is the practice of having multiple open, honest love relationships.
-Affectional orientation - To holders of this view, one's orientation is defined by whom one is predisposed to fall in love with, whether or not one desires that person sexually
-MSM- are male persons who engage in sexual activity with members of the same sex, regardless of how they identify themselves; many men choose not to (or cannot for other reasons) accept sexual identities of homosexual or bisexual.
-Situational sexual behaviour is sexual behavior of a kind that is different from that which the person normally exhibits, due to a social environment that in :some way permits, encourages, or compels those acts.
Many people change their sexual behavior depending on the situation or at different points in their life.[1] For example, men and women in a university may engage in bisexual activities, but only in that environment. Experimentation of this sort is more common among adolescents (or just after), both male and female. Some colloquialisms for this trend include "heteroflexible",[2] "BUG" (Bisexual Until Graduation), or "LUG" (Lesbian Until Graduation).[3]
Sexual orientation
A report from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health states, "For some people, sexual orientation is continuous and fixed throughout their lives. For others, sexual orientation may be fluid and change over time".[4] "There . . . [was, as of 1995,] essentially no research on the longitudinal stability of sexual orientation over the adult life span. . . . [I]t [was] . . . still an unanswered question whether . . . [the] measure [of "the complex components of sexual orientation as differentiated from other aspects of sexual identity at one point in time"] will predict future behavior or orientation. Certainly, it [was] . . . not a good predictor of past behavior and self-identity, given the developmental process common to most gay men and lesbians (i.e., denial of homosexual interests and heterosexual experimentation prior to the coming-out process)."[5]
Kinsey scale
Heterosexual-Homosexual Rating Scale,[6] attempts to describe a person's sexual history or episodes of his or her sexual activity at a given time. Ituses a scale from 0, meaning exclusively heterosexual, to 6, meaning exclusively homosexual.


  1. ^ Rosario, M., Schrimshaw, E., Hunter, J., & Braun, L. (2006, February). Sexual identity development among lesbian, gay, and bisexual youths: Consistency and change over time. Journal of Sex Research, 43(1), 46–58. Retrieved February 8, 2011.
  2. ^ Thompson, E.M.; Morgan, E.M. (2008). ""Mostly straight" young women: Variations in sexual behavior and identity development". Developmental Psychology. 44 (1): 15–21. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.44.1.15. PMID 18194001. 
  3. ^ See for instance "Campus Lesbians Step Into Unfamiliar Light" New York Times, June 5, 1993
  4. ^ "ARQ2: Question A2 – Sexual Orientation". Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. Retrieved 2007-08-28. 
  5. ^ Gonsiorek, John C., Randall L Sell, & James D. Weinrich, Definition and Measurement of Sexual Orientation (feature), in Suicide & Life – Threatening Behavior (N.Y.: Guilford (ISSN 03630234)), vol. 25 (prob Suppl), 1995, p. 40 or 40 ff. (prob. pp. 40–51) ((ProQuest (ProQuest document ID 7736731) (Text Only)) (Full Text), as accessed Mar. 20, 2010 (alternative document URL (prob. also in PsycINFO) (abstract <>, as accessed Mar. 17, 2010, or
  6. ^ "Kinsey's Heterosexual-Homosexual Rating :Scale". The Kinsey Institute. Retrieved 8 September 2011. 

User: Pgarret (talk) 09:15, 10 November 2012 (UTC).

Categories are there to help people find relevant articles. This article is about his sexuality. Of course we cannot know his true sexuality (even if there is such a thing). I've no idea what your Kinsey quotations are supposed to prove. Paul B (talk) 12:05, 11 November 2012 (UTC)


References, no. 22, The site with the URL has moved and should be updated to the current site Rictornorton (talk) 12:10, 21 January 2014 (UTC)

Missing refs.[edit]

These full references are missing:

  • Montaigne - This should really be Bush.
  • Rollins - Actually quoting others.
  • Bush

Myrvin (talk) 19:44, 17 September 2014 (UTC)

The fact that Rollins is quoting someone else isn't a problem (indeed it's helpful that we've got recent scholarship on this, as 18th and 19th century sources can be suspect) - more of a problem is that I do not know who Rollins is and what the title of his or her book is, which may be the problem you're alluding to. However, both of the quotes Rollins provides can be found in a number of other sources, luckily. It's stated in the article prose that the Bush citation is to his 1961 edition of the Sonnets (which does exist, but doesn't seem to be on Google Books) - however, we can also find a secondary source mentioning Bush's opinion [4] [5] . We should not be citing Montaigne - if Bush talks about male nonsexual friendship in Montaigne, he or sources that mention him should be cited, not Montaigne. Montaigne should only be cited if he talks about the sexuality of Shakespeare. –Roscelese (talkcontribs) 21:07, 17 September 2014 (UTC)
Rollins is probably Hyder Edward Rollins. Most likely it's his 1944 edition of the sonnets that's being cited, rather an archaic source. This fragmentary footnote has been there since the article was created in 2005, probably because the content was imported from another article back then, but the bibliography wasn't brought over with it. Searching the archives would be a thankless task. But the relevant passages are, as Roscelese says, easily sourced elsewhere. Paul B (talk) 21:19, 17 September 2014 (UTC)
Yeah, I could have been clearer, I meant it's good that we have Rollins citing Steevens as opposed to citing Steevens directly. But if we can't track down that Rollins introduction, we have that content in studies specifically on Shakespeare and his sexuality/on sexuality in his works. –Roscelese (talkcontribs) 21:33, 17 September 2014 (UTC)

In the Sonnets article, we have <ref>[[Hyder Edward Rollins]], The Sonnets, New Variorum Shakespeare, vol. 25 II, Lippincott, 1944, p. 181−4.</ref> I'll use that.

It looks like the first Bush quote may actually be in Pequigney, so the second one might be too. Myrvin (talk) 08:55, 18 September 2014 (UTC)

Doesn't make sense?[edit]

The line from the article; "Still, the anecdote suggests that at least one of Shakespeare's contemporaries (Manningham) believed that Shakespeare was heterosexual" doesn't make any sense. There is nothing from the anecdote that would lead one to conclude that Shakespeare exclusively has sex with women, only that he has sex with women. So it implies nothing about whether he was heterosexual or bisexual. (talk) 15:51, 8 December 2017 (UTC)