Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Shakespeare on love...



Well, actually Joseph Pearce included it in something he wrote...

Someone asked him if Shakespeare was a homosexual, based upon Sonnet 20.  Dr. Pearce responded:
The problem with "gay history" is that it is an invention of the last fifty years. It never existed prior to its invention. This is not to say that homosexual practice did not exist, of course, though it would not and could not even be called "homosexual" in Shakespeare's time because that word is itself an invention of the late nineteenth century, when it was employed to signify something pathological. The word "gay", of course, is even newer, deriving from mid-twentieth century homosexual underworld slang. The point is that Shakespeare would have been baffled at first and then horrified to discover that gutter-minded "academics", employing the doubles-entendres of twentieth-century adolescent toilet humour, had inverted his meaning to signify sodomy, which would probably be the only word he would have used to describe the practice of homosexuality.

This being said, let's humour the inventors of "gay history" by looking at the evidence they present. Sonnet 20, to which you refer, seems to be the strongest evidence that they have to offer. It does talk of "love", though love meant love to the Elizabethans, not fornication or copulation, and still less sodomy. The word "love" was not used as a mere innuendo, nor would Lennon's understanding of love as something self-centred and lacking in self-sacrifice have been comprehensible to an Elizabethan. Of course, a cad might feign "love" for vicious purposes but that would make him a liar, not a lover. Since "love" meant "love", it was often employed to describe a man's feelings towards another man. Love meant love, as in caritas, something which every Christian is commanded to feel towards every other person, male or female.

To the extent that Shakespeare uses healthy bawdiness in the sonnet, it is absolutely clear that the poet is not interested in the one thing in which homosexuals are obsessed. The "addition" of male genitalia to the person to whom the sonnet is addressed is the "adding [of] one thing to my purpose nothing", i.e. the poet has no purpose for the additional appendage, which signifies that "Nature [had] prick'd thee out for women's pleasure". Shakespeare's meaning is clear enough. Men are not interested in something that Nature has designed for women's pleasure. If Sonnet 20 is the best that "gay historians" can do to make a case for the "pinking" of the Bard, they are not likely to convince anyone other than their own in-crowd, or should that be out-crowd! - St. Austin Revue

Obviously Joseph Pearce is not happy that gay historians are trying to claim Shakespeare as their own - I don't like that sort of thing either, and I've often noted, as Pearce does, that homosexuality as we know it and refer to it today, didn't exist before the 20th century.

That said - I'm not a student of Shakespeare, but what most interested me in Joseph Pearce's rebuttal is how he presents love from Elizabethan times:
"...love meant love to the Elizabethans, not fornication or copulation, and still less sodomy."
It means the type of love between friends no one can condemn - and friends themselves would dare not corrupt. 

  

10 comments:

  1. "...love meant love to the Elizabethans, not fornication or copulation, and still less sodomy."

    Oh, really?

    *

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  2. Thanks, Terry. This "Shakespeare was gay" nonsense is believed by so many people thanks to agenda-driven English departments and profit-driven TV channels.

    I've always found it fascinating that in Ancient Greece, during the Classical period (5th-4th century BC), the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus in the Iliad was viewed almost universally in homosexual terms, as erotic love between an older man and a younger one.

    But Homer don't play that, and he would have been puzzled at this interpretation. Homer, writing in perhaps the 9th century BC, belonged to what was still an Indo-European warrior culture, similar to what one finds later in Beowulf and Viking sagas. Although such cultures did view women as chattel, they weren't cool with the idea of having sex with men, either - that was usually taboo. Achilles' rage sparked by Patroclus' death is based on his love for Patroclus as warrior and "BFF", not as his lover.

    Of course, the Ancient Greeks, sex-obsessed and indulgent as they were, interpreted this in the gayest way possible, and actually took it for granted. Of course, unlike modern academic idiots, the Greeks did not understand that the past is significantly different from the present - they just assumed their worldview was how things were. Modern academics don't have such luxury, and their intentions are much more insidious.

    A few years ago, a girl at LSU told me that her English teacher had said "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight", a medieval Middle English poem with Arthurian and religious themes, was about homosexuality and the social taboos of gay sex. Yes, because postmodern deconstructive social theory (or queer theory) was all the rage in Merry Olde Englonde.

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  3. Reality Check11:47 AM

    Yes, and Black History wasn't really taught in schools until 50 years ago, either. Nor Women's History until 30 years ago.

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  4. The very idea of "black history" and "women's history" is political and has little to do with objectively understanding history.

    The fact that no culture until quite recently has ever come up with the idea of "gay" as a type of person, even when homosexual practice was widespread should say something.

    RC - Homosexual practices were very widespread in the ancient world, as was sex with children. Does this mean that all these people were "born gay" or had pedophile orientations, or is it much more likely that these are behaviors that were socially acceptable, so people did them.

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  5. Great response by Pearce!

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  6. fwiw, Terry, I have sat at least 20 Eng. Lit. courses and never once heard this theory. It isn't a prevalent academic notion nor focus.

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  7. If you look it up on wiki it notes the scholarly debate.

    I agree with Pearce however.

    Anyway - all the guys wore tights and lace and sported a pierced ear or two back then.

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  8. Actually, I know more straight guys with pierced ears than I do gay ones with pierced ears. Must be a straight thing. Now the lace, that's a different story...

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  9. Pearce also says the great Shakes is Catholic too - to which I agree. I'm reading a book of his right now.

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  10. Mercury: The very idea of "black history" and "women's history" is political and has little to do with objectively understanding history ... The fact that no culture until quite recently has ever come up with the idea of "gay" as a type of person, even when homosexual practice was widespread should say something.

    Well, excuse me, but I know as a trained historian, that we have

    * Military History
    * Church History
    * United States History
    * European History
    * Political History
    * Social History
    * Fashion History
    * Automotive History
    * etc, etc, etc ...

    They are all "objective?" So what's wrong with Black or Gay History, they are "political" and not others? Is Political History political? Should we pretend the subjects you mention don't exist as subjects because they aren't "objective?" Shall we say Black is not real, Gay is not real?

    C'mon, ALL history is interpretive, my friend, all of it.

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