Shakespeare's sonnets: "man right fair"

  • davemancheste...

    Posts: 175

    Aug 27, 2011 10:17 AM GMT
    I was at the gym yesterday and when I'f finished up a had some time to kill so on a whim popped into my old university library- the John Rylands Library, Manchester. It's conveniently situated right next to my gym.

    They have a famous portrait that is supposedly Shakespeare on display and as I knew they own one of the few copies of Shakespeare's sonnets I called it up from the stacks to the reading room and spent a really leisurely few hours reading them. Not often I hold a book from 1609 in my hands.

    I knew they were meant to have gay content but was surprised at the extent. Especially some of the more famous passages that are addressed to a man. Have any other guys read the sonnets? What are you views? Who is the man right fair?

    I hope that gym culture and early modern literature isn't a too uncomfortable collision of cultures for some of you guys ;-)

    David
  • ytOwen

    Posts: 298

    Aug 27, 2011 11:18 AM GMT
    The Sonnets are dedicated to a Mr W H.
    Oscar Wilde wrote about this in his The Portrait Of Mr W H.
    So ... ... ... that's pretty gay!

    My favourite Sonnets is 128 which begins:
    How oft when thou, my music, music play'st,

    And 129:

    The expense of spirit in a waste of shame
    Is lust in action; and till action, lust
    Is perjured, murderous, bloody, full of blame,
    Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust,
    Enjoy'd no sooner but despised straight,
    Past reason hunted, and no sooner had
    Past reason hated, as a swallow'd bait
    On purpose laid to make the taker mad;
    Mad in pursuit and in possession so;
    Had, having, and in quest to have, extreme;
    A bliss in proof, and proved, a very woe;
    Before, a joy proposed; behind, a dream.
    All this the world well knows; yet none knows well
    To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.

    hmmmmm for the sexually depressed out there, sound familiar?

    Lets return to 128!

    How oft, when thou, my music, music play'st,
    Upon that bless├Ęd wood whose motion sounds
    With thy sweet fingers when thou gently sway'st
    The wiry concord that mine ear confounds,
    Do I envy those jacks that nimble leap
    To kiss the tender inward of thy hand,
    Whilst my poor lips, which should that harvest reap,
    At the wood's boldness by thee blushing stand!
    To be so tickled, they would change their state
    And situation with those dancing chips
    O'er whom thy fingers walk with gentle gait,
    Making dead wood more blest than living lips.
    Since saucy jacks so happy are in this,
    Give them thy fingers, me thy lips to kiss



  • ytOwen

    Posts: 298

    Aug 27, 2011 11:19 AM GMT
    Personally I feel the Sonnets read best from a gay perspective.
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    Aug 27, 2011 1:06 PM GMT
    Oh my yes!



    The sonnets are groups into three sets:

    The second set are to the beautiful man. The third and last set are to the dark lady who also seems to have loved the man.


    "Shall I compare Thee to a Summer's Day" is to the man.


    As part of my course when we enter the section on Shakespeare, we readall the sonnets for comprehension (structure too) and take them apart. It is always a wonder to see the dawning realization on the group as they reach their own conclusion regarding Old Will's sexuality.

    I close the section with a reading on the play Shakespeare's Will (about his Will, and the famous bequest to his widow of "the second best bed.")


    I am careful never to suggest interpretation - it is all them realising that William Shakespeare was at least bisexual.

  • exoticfruit

    Posts: 5

    Aug 27, 2011 4:12 PM GMT
    Upper_Canadian saidIt is always a wonder to see the dawning realization on the group as they reach their own conclusion regarding Old Will's sexuality.

    I close the section with a reading on the play Shakespeare's Will (about his Will, and the famous bequest to his widow of "the second best bed.")


    I am careful never to suggest interpretation - it is all them realising that William Shakespeare was at least bisexual.



    Possibly--but the degree of emotion considered acceptable in male friendships of Elizabethan times was different than it is today. Expressing deep affection for a good friend back then was not necessarily an "unmanly" thing. Did some of those relationships have homoerotic undertones? Sure, of course... but the Elizabethans did not assign labels to sexuality the way we do today, either.
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    Aug 27, 2011 5:54 PM GMT
    Meh, Shakespeare was just gay and dealing with it through plethorous sonnetic writing... and when writing to a female just sexually frustrated eh?

    Sonnet 20


    A woman's face with nature's own hand painted,
    Hast thou, the master mistress of my passion;
    A woman's gentle heart, but not acquainted
    With shifting change, as is false women's fashion:
    An eye more bright than theirs, less false in rolling,
    Gilding the object whereupon it gazeth;
    A man in hue all hues in his controlling,
    Which steals men's eyes and women's souls amazeth.
    And for a woman wert thou first created;
    Till Nature, as she wrought thee, fell a-doting,
    And by addition me of thee defeated,
    By adding one thing to my purpose nothing.
    But since she prick'd thee out for women's pleasure,
    Mine be thy love and thy love's use their treasure.


    How much more clear can you be? First off, the whole doting upon the man's beauty, which he compares to a woman's but being more beautiful yet, and happily lacking in woman's frivolousness, then finally "bby addition me of thee defeated, by adding one thing to my purpose nothing, since she "pricked thee" out for women's pleasure, mine be thy love and thy love's use their treasure" i.o.w. the addition of the penis being what makes the object of his love unavailable to "use"

    If that does not scream gay, nothing ever will
  • Lincsbear

    Posts: 2605

    Aug 27, 2011 6:15 PM GMT
    Yes,I knew they were addressed to a man/men.
    Not an expert on his works,but Shakespeare wrote in a gender divided culture,so what looks so gay to us may be more one of tradition/patriarchy/result of censorship,etc. to him and his contemporaries.The sexual undertones we read into them may not have been so important then.
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    Aug 27, 2011 6:35 PM GMT
    [quote][cite]I hope that gym culture and early modern literature isn't too uncomfortable a collision of cultures for some of you guys[/quote]

    I'm sorry, but while we're on the subject of close reading of texts, am I the only one who thought this just a tad condescending?

    BTW, the second best bed bit needs to be understood in the context of the era in which the bequest was made. The marital bed was the second best bed, since the best bed was reserved for guests.

    As to the bi Bard theory, seems plausible enough since the women's roles were played by boys.
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    Aug 27, 2011 7:05 PM GMT
    I think they also make a good argument when they say the authors did not always write autobiographically. They might have been written from a woman's point of view.
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    Aug 27, 2011 7:06 PM GMT
    guys what about this :

    I shall have also cause to speak,
    And from his mouth whose voice will draw on
    more; But let this same be presently perform'd,Even while men's minds
    are wild; lest more mischance On plots and errors,
    happen. Let four captains Bear Hamlet, like a soldier, to the stage;
    For he was likely, had he been put
    on, To have proved
    most royally: and, for his passage, The soldiers' music and the rites
    of war Speak loudly for him. Take up the bodies:
    such a sight as this Becomes the field, but here shows much amiss.
    Go, bid the soldiers shoot. A dead march.
    E
    xe
    unt, bearing off the dead bodies;
    after which a pea
    l of ordnance is shot off.
  • Lincsbear

    Posts: 2605

    Aug 27, 2011 7:11 PM GMT
    Good point,Advaya.See also, 'To a Coy Mistress' by Andrew Marvell.
  • ytOwen

    Posts: 298

    Aug 28, 2011 6:43 AM GMT
    exoticfruit said
    Upper_Canadian said


    I am careful never to suggest interpretation - it is all them realising that William Shakespeare was at least bisexual.



    Possibly--but the degree of emotion considered acceptable in male friendships of Elizabethan times was different than it is today. Expressing deep affection for a good friend back then was not necessarily an "unmanly" thing. Did some of those relationships have homoerotic undertones? Sure, of course... but the Elizabethans did not assign labels to sexuality the way we do today, either.


    Yes! Homosocial vs Homosexual feelings. We're finally bouncing back from the sodomy laws of the 19th century. I wonder if Virginia Woolf's Orlando might be relevent?