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Straight Acting: The Hidden Queer Lives of William Shakespeare

Straight Acting: The Hidden Queer Lives of William Shakespeare

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AVAILABLE SEPTEMBER 17, 2024

By: Will Tosh

A dazzling portrait of Shakespeare as a young artist, revealing how his rich and complex queer life informed the plays and poems we treasure today

“Was Shakespeare gay?” For years the question has sent experts and fans into a tailspin of confusion. But as scholar Will Tosh argues, this debate misses the point: sex, intimacy, and identity in Elizabethan England were infinitely more complex—and queer—than we have been taught.
 
In this incisive biography, Tosh reveals William Shakespeare as a queer artist who drew on his society’s nuanced understanding of gender and sexuality to create some of English literature’s richest works. During Shakespeare’s time, same-sex desire was repressed and punished by the Church and state, but it was also articulated and sustained by institutions across England. Moving through the queer spaces of Shakespeare’s life—his Stratford schoolroom, smoky London taverns and playhouses, the royal court—Tosh shows how strongly Shakespeare’s early work was influenced by the queer culture of the time, much of it totally integrated into mainstream society. He also uncovers the surprising reason why Shakespeare veered away from his early work’s gender-bending homoeroticism.
 
Offering a subversive sketch of Elizabethan England, Straight Acting uncovers Shakespeare as one of history’s great queer artists and completely reshapes the way we understand his life and times.
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