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The Ins And Outs William Shakespeare's Sexual Culture: VIDEO

Greenblatt

Countless scholars have debated whether William Shakespeare dabbled in same-sex love during his 16th Century life.

In this BigThink video found at Good As You, scholar Stephen Greenblatt examines not Shakespeare's actions, but the society in which he lived, a society in which there were no sexual categories and a society in which laws against sodomy were rarely enforced.

He also recalls an experience in China in which he was invited to shower with another man. It's that kind of mentality, he explains in this video, that allowed men like Shakespeare to share beds with other men.

Find out what that means AFTER THE JUMP.

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  1. "a society in which there were no sexual categories and a society in which laws against sodomy were rarely enforced."

    Great, great point and I will bookmark this video.

    This is the kind of society we need to get back to, where sexual relations between men are considered part of the natural order of things.

    Ironically, this is what I have discovered exists in the Islamic world today, where despite the official pronouncements from the mullahs, sex between males is quite widespread and accepted, as long as discretion is observed, and hardly ever are the laws against homosexuality enforced. Indeed, they would have to arrest most of the population if they did decide to enforce them.

    "Gay" does not really exist in such cultures....and this is what Ahmenijad means, for example, when he says that homosexuality "does not exist" in Iran.

    The whole cultural construct of "gay" is counter-productive, as it results in people being put in boxes and having to make a "choice" and declare that they either belong in one box or the other......and that cordoning off of people is what has caused the bizarre culture of "gay" to develop, which acts as a deterrent to men in general being freer in their sexuality.....because they don't want to buy into the whole "gay" thing......

    Posted by: Rick | Sep 13, 2012 10:34:57 AM


  2. Interesting for sure, but I was hoping he would bring up some specific information about Shakespeare that would give us his opinion about Shakespeare's sexual preferences. I for one feel he was more sexually interested in men, or at least equally interested in both sexes. His poetry, plays and relationships, both with his wife and with his friends and patrons, pretty clearly show a strong same-sex interest.

    Posted by: Graphicjack | Sep 13, 2012 10:36:25 AM


  3. Interesting for sure, but I was hoping he would bring up some specific information about Shakespeare that would give us his opinion about Shakespeare's sexual preferences. I for one feel he was more sexually interested in men, or at least equally interested in both sexes. His poetry, plays and relationships, both with his wife and with his friends and patrons, pretty clearly show a strong same-sex interest.

    Posted by: Graphicjack | Sep 13, 2012 10:36:28 AM


  4. @Ricky
    Iraqis would love to see you there in their homeland. :)

    Posted by: Pommie | Sep 13, 2012 10:49:10 AM


  5. i don't think that those:
    "hanged drawn and quartered with their privy parts cut off..." and shoved in their mouths while still alive would quite agree that the laws against sodomy were not enforced.

    As for the "police " being called.....quite a ridiculous remark....the "police" did not exist until Peel's administration in or about 1800.
    The late Elizabethan society was hugely repressive and the suggestion that they were soft on homos or that it was somehow overlooked is simply misguided.

    Posted by: JackFknTwist | Sep 13, 2012 10:59:03 AM


  6. @ RICK :
    Your post is clearly nonsense.

    The "culture of gays " always existed when it was not repressed either by brutality or moral hypocricy.
    The Sacred Band of Thebes was formed from 150 pairs of male lovers , who were "out" and clearly homo, and deliberately saw themselves as such.
    They defeated the Spartans in two decisive battles before themselves being annihilated , as one fighting homo band, at Chaeronea, by none other than Philip of Macedon and his homo son Alexander.
    the suggestion that there were no sexual categories such as straight and homo has never been true going right back to Homer and/or Thebes.

    Posted by: JackFknTwist | Sep 13, 2012 11:06:18 AM


  7. @JACKFKNTWIST No, you are wrong. The whole concept of "gay" did not exist in ancient Greece and Rome.

    The Sacred Band of Thebes simply reflected the norms of Greek upper-class society at the time, in which it was perfectly acceptable and even expected that older men would take teenage boys as lovers in a mentoring sort of relationship.

    The members of this group were chosen based on their fighting ability, but they were not different from other upper-class Greek men in their habits, sexual or otherwise.

    You mentioned the Spartans......an even better example of what I am talking about. It was routine among the Spartans for soldiers to pair off and perform fellatio on each other as a rite before battle. And this involved ALL the soldiers......there was no concept of "homosexual" or "gay" at the time.

    And this is why it is so disingenous of gay activists to claim many of these ancient Greeks and Romans, including Plato, Aristotle, and Caesar. They wer not "gay"--they just engaged in sex with other males in the same way that most other males of their social class did.....(not to mention that the sexual activities they engaged in would be considered a form of pedophilia and would be strictly illegal today).

    Glad to set you straight on that.

    We need to liberate men sexually to return ourselves to that sort of situation.....and eradicate the entire notion of "gay" in the process.....

    Posted by: Rick | Sep 13, 2012 11:31:01 AM


  8. As usual Rick is pretty much right. Discrete M2M sex and love are old as the hills while at the time officially unacceptable. Homosexuality and hypocrisy have been married for a long time. What's new in some places is that two mature men can officially marry each other, employ a surrogate for children and live happily ever after right in front of everyone. It's wonderful.

    Posted by: UFFDA | Sep 13, 2012 11:36:54 AM


  9. I think Rick is correct. The problem historically was not men have sex with each other, it was men being in love with one another to the exclusion of women (women being important only for procreation, of course). I mean, since it was socially unacceptable for a man to be alone with a woman of any social standing and sex with prostitutes has always been risky, why not get off with one of your friends? That's just normal. Pubescent children have always explored their genitals with trusted friends. Why would this not continue into adulthood in the absence of a spouse?

    Posted by: Cris | Sep 13, 2012 12:01:05 PM


  10. Well it depends upon how you perceive the word gay. If it's thought to be something that is man on man action then definitely, even the ancient Greeks would be gays but if you perceive gay as something which has to be with a total exclusion of females then the ancient Greeks might not be gay. However, then going by the latter definition of gay even today we would have a huge number of gays (which is todays' notion, i.e., Man on man)which would not be seen as gay.

    It's not that the concept of homosexuality was missing. It's just that they didn't have a word such as 'gay' or whatever. With the development of language in the due course of time we got words like gay, homosexual, and still their definitions keep changing. It's on the same line that 10-20 years ago we still had people like Rick but now we can call him a troll but just because we didn't have a word like this back then doesn't negate the concept of people like Rick being in existence.

    Posted by: Pommie | Sep 13, 2012 12:28:50 PM


  11. I haven't watched the video but from what I've read, most of Shakespeare's sonnets were to the young man.

    Posted by: Michael | Sep 13, 2012 12:40:17 PM


  12. "The problem historically was not men have sex with each other, it was men being in love with one another to the exclusion of women (women being important only for procreation, of course)."

    I don't know about that. After all, the mentoring relationship between Greek men and teenage boys was as much (or more) a spiritual and social one as it was a sexual one. It was by no means purely about sex....and Greek mythology is chock-full of stories of male-male love. Maybe what you meant was that all of that was OK as long as one still married a woman and re-produced the species....and I would agree with that.

    Interesting, too, that, even today, does "gay" really mean being in love with a man or loving men? Not really, not in most cases. Very few "gay" men, after all, form permanent, loving relationships with another man......their relationship to other men is largely sexual and ONLY sexual, for the most part. And most of them have had sex with women, too.

    I think the complicating factor here is "romantic love", which originated in the Age of Chivalry, during which time women were elevated to a pedestal and men were expected to devote themselves to a woman, at least in theory, and make a woman their principal soulmate.

    THAT, I think, is where Western culture REALLY went wrong.....and it continues to haunt us today. The solution is to destroy the notion of "romantic love" and any kind of emotional attachment to women as being paramount and central to men's lives.....and replace it with the notion that men should come first in men's lives and should be each other's principal "soul-mates".

    When we achieve that, we will see REAL progress in all our lives.....

    Posted by: Rick | Sep 13, 2012 2:12:33 PM


  13. Another high-minded gay person. Greenblatt lives in concepts, the world does not. Greenblatt can say what he says because no one is going to go to the heart of the issue because it's graphic. Heterosexual males don't get boners from looking at other guys. That's a fact. You are not going to turn heterosexual males gay by being in close courters with them. The reason same-sex bed arrangements happened is because they tried to keep unwanted heterosexual sex from happening. They were ignorant of homosexuality, many probably never imagined it could exist. Their lives were based around heterosexuality, there were no other competing sexualities to complicate how they lived. The attraction toward people of the same sex has always existed whether there was a word for it or not.

    Posted by: Bill | Sep 13, 2012 2:29:29 PM


  14. @ Bill :
    You're absolutely right. The Greeks didn't use the word "gay"....
    But they certainly understood the concept .....and not only the relationship between a older man, or mentor and a younger man. They also understood as a separate and distinct concept the bonded relationship between two lover . Who cares what you call it
    @RICK :
    No you are wrong; the Sacred Band were chosen not only as worthy fighters but also on their sexual relationship. Geordias in the 4th century BC ordered the already existing couples among the Theban Army into a distinct Band, expressly based on their homosexuality.
    that's the point..

    Posted by: JackFknTwist | Sep 13, 2012 4:13:42 PM


  15. @ RICK :
    you are totally confusing Paedophilia with the distinct adult consensual relationships between the men who served in the Sacred Band.
    they had nothing to do with the concepts of which you make such propagandist use.

    Posted by: JackFknTwist | Sep 13, 2012 4:33:43 PM


  16. Stephen Greenblatt DOES NOT KNOW WHAT HE IS TALKING ABOUT.

    I HAVE DONE RESEARCH ON Christopher Marlowe (A SIXTEENTH-CENTURY PLAYWRIGHT). SODOMY WAS PUNISHED OFTEN IN "ELIZABETHAN" ENGLAND. William Shakespeare's HOMOSEXUALITY IS BELIEVED, BUT, NO EVIDENCE EXISTS.

    CHRISTOPHER ALLEN HORTON

    Posted by: CHRISTOPHER ALLEN HORTON | Sep 13, 2012 6:20:17 PM


  17. "JACKFKNTWIST,"

    THANK YOU, SIR. Stephen Greenblatt IS DISTORTING HISTORY.

    CHRISTOPHER ALLEN HORTON

    Posted by: CHRISTOPHER ALLEN HORTON | Sep 13, 2012 6:26:10 PM


  18. "RICK" (13 SEPTEMBER; 11:31:01 AM),
    FANTASTIC COMMENTS.

    CHRISTOPHER ALLEN HORTON

    Posted by: CHRISTOPHER ALLEN HORTON | Sep 13, 2012 6:30:29 PM


  19. The idea that the concept of men who ONLY wanted to have sex with other men didn't exist in the past is silly. Some of us are exclusively gay. We have always been here. Always.

    Posted by: BobN | Sep 13, 2012 9:11:20 PM


  20. " Heterosexual males don't get boners from looking at other guys. That's a fact."
    THANK YOU! Scary that it took so many posts to arrive at an irrefutable truth. History proves that history provides many readily misunderstood lessons, Rick. The quasi-paedophilic relationships in the Hellenic Greek world were not something we can easily relate to in our era - which is a good thing! They were all about controlling sexuality in a patriarchal and rigidly class-divided society. Most of the older men probably saw it as a duty something like being a mentor; there were rules and mores about what was acceptable and the boy's father had to approve of the man to become involved with his teenaged son. Full-on anal sex was discouraged and it's quite conceivable that someone could have gotten a "bad reputation" and been kept from further mentoring. So like any ridiculous societal or religious tradition, it may or may not say much about the underlying biological urges and desires of those beholden to them. The obvious case of this kind of proscription is the obsession with virginity before marriage. (Interestingly, the latter persisted but the curious Greek customs did not; to me they both probably had a sociobiological component wholly unrecognized by the respective societies. Evolutionarily speaking, obsessing over virginity probably helped insure true paternity and transmission of genes to the next generation; in an ancient society, a limited form of pederasty could have somehow demystified sexuality and increased longterm reproductive outcomes. After all, Siegfried doesn't experience fear until he encounters Brunnhilde. Of course, that isn't needed today with sexually saturated media images.)
    Likewise, in the ancient world, men in isolation on a war front might have had fewer objections to situational MSM of the type that occurs in prisons, but that doesn't mean that most of them simply weren't fulfilling a desire they'd rather have fulfilled with a woman.
    Sorry, gay people just make themselves look ridiculous when they try to claim all straight men are repressing latent homosexual urges. They are not. I've very occasionally been turned on by a woman, and I suspect some straight men are very occasionally turned on by a man, in a certain uncommon situations...doesn't mean they are missing something in their life if they haven't had MSM sex.

    Posted by: EchtKultig | Sep 13, 2012 11:28:50 PM


  21. Lol Rick.

    "Very few "gay" men, after all, form permanent, loving relationships with another man......"

    Got anything to back that up?

    Posted by: Lance | Sep 14, 2012 12:08:50 AM


  22. See how valuable Rick is...he gets everyone going...huge fun and lots of information. Feed the troll by all means and consider redefining him.

    Posted by: UFFDA | Sep 14, 2012 12:56:53 AM


  23. Until 1975, sodomy was a felony in California. Our concern at the time was not so much that we would be incarcerated for committing the most natural of unnatural acts, but that the statute permitted all kinds of discriminatory and disabling acts: gay teachers could be fired, and gay lawyers disbarred.

    I'm not old enough to remember how it was in Shakespeare's time, but I would expect that the statute would have had a similar chilling effect.

    Posted by: Rich | Sep 14, 2012 4:31:03 AM


  24. @Bill....BINGO! (with this line...) "They were ignorant of homosexuality, many probably never imagined it could exist."

    So true...even to this day, with some folks.


    Posted by: millerbeach | Sep 14, 2012 4:57:25 AM


  25. @ RICK :

    There is an obvious chasm between para. 3 and para. 5 of your post.
    On one hand you say "very few gay men form loving relationships with another man....."
    (That is jaw-dropping enough in itself !)

    Then you say that "men should come first in men's' lives and should be each other's principal soul-mates."

    The first proposition is manifestly absurd.
    The second prescriptive proposition, presumably applies to gay men.....and is already the situation and has been throughout the ages, whether you acknowledge that fact or not.

    The fact that much of gay men's history has been deliberately obliterated, manipulated and obscured, and subsequently necessarily hidden,does not mean that we have to accept the Hebrew/Christian zeitgeist that has prevailed.

    My god, we are even still in a situation where Hollywood can make a movie pretending Achilles and Patroclus were cousins !
    They may have been the imaginings of Homer but they were never cousins.
    We still, even now , live it that blind obliteration of our historical culture and heritage. And yes Rick, we do have one ! Even you try to propose the absurd suggestion that the Sacred Band of Thebes was not really a band of 150 male couples, adult lovers who had formed 'couple' relationships, you still want to proagandize that they were only "fighters"....selected for their fighting ability. That too is manifestly wrong. and their 'couple' relationship was acknowledged by Philip of Macedon.

    The Shakespeare post tells us absolutely nothing about Shakespeare.....and is misleading about the dangerous repressive regime of Walsingham and his spys which permeated Elizabethan England.

    Posted by: JackFknTwist | Sep 14, 2012 8:50:30 AM


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