William Shakespeare was undeniably bisexual, researchers claim

Scholars rearranged the playwright’s sonnets and analysed the people he addresses in each one

Roisin O'Connor
Sunday 23 August 2020 11:43 BST
Shakespeare’s sexuality has been a source of interest among academics for years
Shakespeare’s sexuality has been a source of interest among academics for years (Getty)
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A fresh analysis of William Shakespeare’s sonnets has found evidence that he was, in fact, bisexual, researchers have claimed.

New findings, which will be published in a book later this year, apparently show that the Bard had affairs with both men and women during his 34-year marriage to Anne Hathaway.

As reported in The Telegraph, Professor Sir Stanley Wells and Dr Paul Edmondson rearranged Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets from the 1609 edition in the order in which they were most likely written.

Adding the sonnets from his plays, the scholars were left with 182 sonnets dating from around 1578 onwards.

They concluded that the long-held beliefs that Shakespeare was obsessed with the “Fair Youth” and led astray by his “Dark Lady” were incorrect, and instead claim that the characters were used to refer to multiple people.

“The language of sexuality in some of the sonnets, which are definitely addressed to a male subject, leaves us in no doubt that Shakespeare was bisexual,” Dr Edmonsdson said.

“It’s become fashionable since the mid-1980s to think of Shakespeare as gay. But he was married and had children.

“Some of these sonnets are addressed to a female and others to a male. To reclaim the term bisexual seems to be quite an original thing to be doing.”

Shakespeare’s sexuality has been a source of interest among academics for years.

The debate was last raised in 2014 and again involved Professor Wells, who challenged comments made by Sir Brian Vickers.

Vickers, a visiting professor at University College London, asserted that a Times Literary Supplement book review was wrong to state that Shakespeare’s 119 sonnet was written in a “primarily homosexual context”.

“When a poet whose name is William writes poems of anguished and unabashed sexual frankness which pun on the word ‘will’ – 13 times in [Sonnet] No 135... It is not unreasonable to conclude that he may be writing from the depths of his own experience,” Professor Wells argued.

All the Sonnets of Shakespeare will be published by Cambridge University Press on 10 September.

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