Entertainment Hollywood 23 Jul 2017 'Shakespeare wa ...

'Shakespeare was gay, wrote sonnets for men,' says top UK director

Published Jul 23, 2017, 12:03 pm IST
Updated Jul 23, 2017, 12:03 pm IST
Doran said the key clues to understanding Shakespeare's sexuality were in his sonnets.
Photo: AFP
 Photo: AFP

London: William Shakespeare, whose sexuality has been a long-running debate in academic circles, may have been a gay, a top UK theatre director has claimed, asserting that it was "no longer acceptable" for performers to conceal the sexual orientation of the Bard's homosexual characters.

Artistic director of Britain's major theatre company 'Royal Shakespeare Company' Greg Doran said he believed it was Shakespeare's sexuality which gave the noted playwright an outsider's insight that had helped his work.


"I guess a growing understanding of Shakespeare as I have worked with him over the many years that I have, makes me realise that his perspective is very possibly that of an outsider," Doran said.

"It allows him to get inside the soul of a black general, a Venetian jew, an Egyptian queen or whatever and that perhaps that outsider perspective has something to do with his sexuality," he told BBC Radio 4.

Doran said the key clues to understanding Shakespeare's sexuality were in his sonnets. "He wrote a cycle of 154 sonnets, which were published in 1609, and 126 of those sonnets are addressed to a man and not to a woman," Doran said.


He said directors should not hide the sexuality of Shakespeare's gay characters including Antonio in The Merchant of Venice, who is "absolutely clearly in love with the young man Bassanio and sometimes that is kind of toned down". Doran said their love had instead been depicted as "we chaps are very fond of each other".

"It's not, it's clearly a very particular portrait of a gay man and I think in the 21st century it's no longer acceptable to play that as anything other than a homosexual," he said.


Debate over Shakespeare's sexuality has raged for decades among scholars. Three years ago leading scholars clashed in the Times Literary Supplement about the issue, The Telegraph reported.

Brian Vickers started the row by criticising a book suggesting sonnet 116 appeared in a "primarily homosexual context," the report said.

He said it was an "anachronistic assumption" because Shakespeare, 52, was using a form of rhetoric that allowed men to express love without implying sexual attraction. Stanley Wells, a Shakespeare expert at the University of Birmingham, said, "Shakespeare was certainly not exclusively gay. He married Anne Hathaway when he was only 18 and they had a daughter, Susanna, within six months, then twins - a boy,


Hamnet and a girl, Judith". "But he was pretty certainly bisexual, and actively so.

The strongest evidence comes from the sonnets, in some of which he writes of a triangular relationship with a man and a woman. Some people claim that these poems are fictional, but I think this is an evasion," the report quoted Wells as saying.

Shakespeare wrote 154 sonnets, 38 plays and two long narrative poems. Born in 1564, the Bard died in 1616.