Shakespeare, Sex and Love, By Stanley Wells

Revealed: The Bard behind closed doors

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The Independent Culture

The OUP has to get punters in somehow, and how better than with a sexy title?

It mirrors Stanley Wells's accessible approach, although his extensive historical knowledge and sensitive readings of the poems and plays always win out. So we learn that: Shakespeare was one of two Elizabethan sonneteers to write explicitly about sex (long-forgotten Richard Barnfield is the other); the sonnets reveal his own adultery, and picture a "flawed" object of desire for the first time; and the later plays depict tension between "raw sexual desire" and "virtuous, God-given desires". Wells establishes all this not to say something new about Shakespeare, but to emphasise the impact of the writer's life on the work.