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John Faed, "Shakespeare and His Friends" (1859-1860)

Was Shakespeare Gay?

Shakespeare’s sonnets have long been taken as evidence that the poet was gay, or at least that he liked men. That some of them are admiring poems addressed to men is beyond question; we recently printed six of them. But readers’ ability to appreciate the poems as an œuvre has long been hindered by our reliance on the 1609 edition of Shake-speares Sonnets: Never before Imprinted, which does not include all of the poet’s work in sonnet form and which obscures the order in which the poems were written.

Now Paul Edmondson and Stanley Wells, noted scholars with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, have edited a new edition of All the Sonnets of Shakespeare that sets out to remedy these defects...  >> Read more >>

James Jefferys, Nude Male Figures Bearing the Bodies of their Dead Companions, ca. 1779

A Poet’s Debut Provokes—and Mystifies

Several years ago I read, in an opinion piece now lost to me, that the only people who read poetry magazines are other poets. Apart from the obvious hyperbole, this sounds like a remark made by one of two people: a disgruntled poet who wants poetry to be more popular than it is, or a versephobe who doesn’t see the point.

I am neither of those. I enjoy poetry, but I am not a habitual poetry reader. I appreciate nice little orderly sentences that begin with capital letters, proceed with textbook grammar and punctuation, and follow one another in a discernable logical sequence...  >> Read more >>

William Shakespeare by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Shakespeare’s Sonnets of Love

That William Shakespeare (1564–1616) wrote passionate love poetry to men as well as women has long been known. Although he was married to Anne Hathaway and had three children, few other details about his personal life are known, and some have speculated that he was in fact gay.

In a forthcoming edition of his sonnets, two English scholars make the perhaps unsurprising argument that he was bisexual. “It’s become fashionable since the mid-1980s to think of Shakespeare as gay,” Paul Edmondson told The Telegraph. “To reclaim the term bisexual seems to be quite an original thing to be doing.”

All the Sonnets of Shakespeare, by Paul Edmondson and Stanley Wells of Birmingham University and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, will be published by Cambridge University Press in the U.S...  >> Read more >>

Michelangelo's ignudo from Sistine Chapel ceiling

Michelangelo’s Love Sonnets to Tommaso dei Cavalieri

That Michelangelo (1475-1564) admired the beauty of the male body is clear from his art. He left behind a large corpus of art that exalts the muscled bodies of nude men—including drawings of anatomical and mythological subjects, the ignudi of the Sistine Chapel frescoes, and sculptures. His statue of the nude David, sculpted between 1501 and 1504, is routinely cited as one of the greatest works of art in the world.

That he loved men is also no secret: He said so himself, in dozens of poems and letters that have come down to us. Whether any of these relationships extended to sex has been endlessly debated...  >> Read more >>