it's a great life, if you don't weaken (matociquala) wrote,
it's a great life, if you don't weaken
matociquala

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More musings on Elizabethan sexuality



I'm having a grand time trying to explain the Elizabethan view of sexuality without ever actually explaining it. It's such an alien culture is so many ways--attitudes not yet codified by the rigidity and fear of the Puritans and Victorians. Platonic love between men was actually something of a period ideal, and men often kissed in greeting (after the Italian fashion), embraced, shared rooms and beds, etc--as did women. It was friendships between the sexes that were extremely codified and rigid, not within them--almost the opposite of our current model.

The stiff upper lip hadn't been invented yet. *g* Neither had homosexuals as we know them today. Or heterosexuals, it seems. It all seems very fluid and uncodified to a modern eye.... Plus, you add the twin social pressures of heterosexual sex for purposes other than procreation carrying the unavoidable risk of pregnancy (with all its inherent risks), and this yawning gulf between the sexes coupled with these very close same-sex friendships(Think Hamlet & Horatio, Romeo & Mercutio, Hermia & Helena, Rosalind & Celia for examples), and the fact that the modern ideal of the companionate love-match marriage hadn't really arrived yet, and marriage was still very much a social contract (you can see the pressure between the old contracted marriage and the new love-match in Shakespeare's work, and he seems to come down very fully on the side of the love-match, which also makes me think his own marriage didn't suck as much as often conjectured by bored critics)--and you get this enormous, oblique homoeroticism that just pervades everything Elizabethan.

I suspect it's the ome of the few eras in the history of the English language where you could get guys like Will & Kit, perfectly capable of writing these stunning love poems both to men and to women, and utterly unselfconscious about it. Significantly, after the Puritan influence grew stronger, when Shakespeare's sonnets were published in a new edition, they were re-arranged to hide how many of them were to the prettyboy. And I notice we still don't get the obviously homoerotic work of either poet taught in high schools. Heck, all Kit generally gets remembered for is "The Passionate Shepherd to his Love," and I suspect that's because it's too good to pass up on the dialogue between that and Ralegh's poem.

(Although Master Shakespeare's closeness to his male friends seems, on the evidence of his poetry, to have been more a reflection of the Platonic ideal than Master Marley's. But it's dangerous to try to prove anything from poetry, poets inherently being true liars.)

Fascinating stuff. And far more, probably, than you wanted to know.

***
I'm totally not into the wordcount today. Maybe I should read Ombria in Shadow until it's time to go buy paper so I can print and package up tomorrow's submissions.

Even writers deserve a Day Off once in a while, don't they?
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