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The Scandal of Shakespeare's Sonnets

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Margareta de Grazia, University of Pennsylvania

Of all the many defences against the scandal of Shakespeare's Sonnets—Platonism, for example, or the Renaissance ideal of friendship—John Benson's is undoubtedly the most radical. In order to cover up the fact that the first 126 of the Sonnets were written to a male, Benson in his 1640 Poems: Written by Wil Shakespeare. Gent. changed masculine pronouns to feminine and introduced titles which directed sonnets to the young man to a mistress. By these simple editorial interventions, he succeeded in converting a shameful homosexual love to an acceptable heterosexual one, a conversion reproduced in the numerous reprintings of the 1640 Poems up through the eighteenth century. The source for this account is Hyder E. Rollins's authoritative 1944 variorum Sonnets, the first edition to detail Benson's pronominal changes and titular insertions.1 Subsequent editions have reproduced his conclusions, for example John Kerrigan's 1986 edition which faults Benson for inflicting on the Sonnets 'a series of unforgivable injuries', above all 'a single recurring revision: he emended the masculine pronouns used of the friend in 1 to 126 to "her", "hers", and "she"'.2 With varying degrees of indignation and amusement, critical works on the sonnets have repeated the charge.

The charge, however, is wrong. Benson did not attempt to convert a male beloved to a female. To begin with, the number of his alterations has been greatly exaggerated. Of the seventy-five titles Benson assigned to Shakespeare's sonnets, only three of them direct sonnets from the first group of the 1609 Quarto (sonnets 1-126) to a woman.3 Furthermore, because none of the sonnets in question specifies the gender of the beloved, Benson had no reason to believe a male addressee was intended. As for the pronominal changes, Rollins himself within nine pages of his own commentary multiplies the number of sonnets 'with verbal changes designed to make the verses apply to a woman instead of a man' from 'some' to 'many'.4 Rollins gives three examples as if there were countless others, but three is all there are and those three appear to have been made to avoid solecism rather than homoeroticism. In only one sonnet are pronouns altered, though even there not uniformly. In sonnet 101, masculine pro-nouns are emended to feminine in lines 9, 11, and 13 ('Because she needs no praise wilt thou be dumb?' 'To make her much outlive a glided tomb'; 'To make her seem, long hence, as she shows now'), but the masculine (or neutral) pronoun is retained in line 5 ('"Truth needs no colour with his colour fix'd'").5 Benson apparently wished to avoid a possible confusion between Truth and the beloved by altering the gender of the latter. In sonnet 104, 'friend' is emended to the more conventional 'love' but again apparently out of formal rather than moral considerations: the 'fair love' of sonnet 104 is thereby made consistent with the twice repeated 'my love' of sonnet 105, the sonnet with which it is grouped (along with sonnet 106) to form a single poem entitled 'Constant Affection'. The only other alteration may also be stylistic: the emendation of sonnet 108's nonce 'boy' to the frequently repeated 'love' avoided the anomaly of a single sonnet addressed to a boy.6

Indeed the 1640 collection hardly seems concerned with covering up amatory poems to males. The very first fourteen lines printed in the 1640 Poems contain eleven male pronouns, more than any other sonnet, in celebrating an emphatically male beauty. If Benson had wished to censure homoerotic love, why did he not omit the notoriously titillating master-mistress sonnet (20)? Or emend the glamorizing sonnet 106 that praises the beloved—in blazon style, part by part—as the 'master' of beauty? Or the sexually loaded sonnet 110 that apologizes to a specifically male 'god in love' for promiscuity of a decidedly 'preposterous' cast?7 The same question applies to the numerous sonnets in which references to a male beloved as 'my love', 'sweet love', 'lover', and 'rose' are retained.

It is not Shakespeare's text, then, that has been falsified by Benson but rather Benson's edition that has been falsified by the modern tradition.8 The question is, why has so patent an error not been challenged before? Certainly it is not for scarcity of copies: while only twelve copies exist of the original 1609 Sonnets, there are that many of the 1640 Poems in the Folger Library alone.

I wish to propose that modern treatments of the Sonnets have displaced onto Benson a singularly modern dilemma: what to do with the inadmissible secret of Shakespeare's deviant sexuality?9 Benson is described as having put an end to that dark secret in the most radical way imaginable, by altering the sex of the beloved and thereby converting an ignominious homosexual passion into a respectable (albeit still adulterous) heterosexual one. In attributing such an act and motive to Benson, modern criticism curiously assumes—indeed posits—the secret it then reviles Benson for concealing. Quite simply, Benson's alleged act of editorial suppression presupposes something in need of suppression: there must be something horrible at the heart of the sonnets—the first 126 of them—to compel such a dire editorial manoeuvre.

I have dwelled on Benson only parenthetically to set the factual record straight. My real interest is not in factual error but in the kinds of cultural imperatives that motivate such errors. I see Benson's error as a glaring instance of the need to bury a shameful secret deep within the Sonnets. The need was not Shakespeare's. It has been rather that of Shakespeare criticism which for the past two centuries has been repeating variants of the repression it obsessively ascribes to Benson. This repression has, as I will proceed to argue, produced the very scandal it would deny. At the same time, it has overlooked the scandal that is there, not deep within the text but right on its surface.


This has been the case from the time the Sonnets were first edited: by Edmond Malone in his 1780 edition.10 Or, to be more precise, from the time the Sonnets were first not edited: by George Steevens who reprinted the 1609 Sonnets in a collection of early quartos in 1766 but refused to edit them for his 1793 edition of Shakespeare's complete works. While he could justify their publication as documents, he refused to honour them with an editorial apparatus, the trappings of a classic.11 Though he maintained that it was their literary defects that disqualified them, his response to sonnet 20 points to something more visceral: 'It is impossible to read [it] without an equal mixture of disgust and indignation.'12 Surely it is this kind of aversion that prompted his condemnation of Malone's decision to edit them: Malone's 'implements of criticism, like the ivory rake and golden spade in Prudentius, are on this occasion disgraced by the objects of their culture'. For Steevens, Malone's attempt to cultivate such soiled objects as the Sonnets defiled the tools of editing. It was Steevens then and not Benson who first attempted to conceal the scandal of Shakespeare's dirty sexuality, not by changing pronouns but by reproducing the Sonnets in the form of a dusty document rather than of a lofty classic.

Malone, by providing the Sonnets with a textual apparatus in 1780 and then by including them in the canon proper in his 1790 edition of Shakespeare's Plays and Poems achieved precisely what Steevens had dreaded: he elevated the Sonnets to the status of literature. But the filth that embarrassed Steevens remained—remained to be covered up. In fact, as we shall see, Malone's major editorial ambition in regard to the Sonnets—to establish the connection between the first person and Shakespeare13—made the cover-up all the more urgent: if the Sonnets were in Shakespeare's own voice, what was to be done with the fact that the majority of them expressed desire for a young male?

Malone's driving project of identifying the experience of the Sonnets with Shakespeare's own is evident in all his major editorial interventions. Unlike Benson who expanded their contents to accommodate the experience of all lovers by giving them generic titles, Malone limited them so that they applied exclusively to Shakespeare.14 His first step was to restrict the Sonnets to two addresses by introducing a division after sonnet 126. With only two beloveds, the task of identifying particulars could begin. First the young man was identified on the assumption that he was the same as the dedication's Mr W. H. Other identifications followed suit: of persons, time, things, circumstances. The dedicator's T. T. was Thomas Thorpe, Spenser was the rival poet, the 'now' of the sonnets was early in Shakespeare's career, the gift referred to in 122 was a table-book given to Shakespeare by his friend, sonnet 111's 'publick means, which publick manners breeds', referred to Shakespeare's own lamentable ties to the theatre, the unfaithful lover of sonnet 93 was Shakespeare's own wife. All of these efforts to give particularity to the Sonnets contributed to Malone's project of personalizing them. His attempts to identify their abundant deictics, what Benveniste has called 'egocentric markers'—their hes and shes, thous and yous, this's and thats, heres and theres—fastened the Sonnets around Shakespeare's 'I'.15 Thus the experience they recorded could be recognized as that which Shakespeare lived.

The identification proved, as might be anticipated, highly problematic, for there was one connection that could not be allowed: as Malone's own division emphasized, most of the sonnets were addressed to a male. At each of the three points where Malone insisted upon the division at 126, circumlocutions betrayed his unease: although he referred to the addressee of the second group as a 'lady' and 'female', the addressee of the first group was no man or male, but rather 'this person', the majority of the sonnets are 'wo/ addressed to a female'.16 The unspeakable, that 126 sonnets were addressed to a male, remained literally unspoken; at the same time, the basic division according to the beloved's gender proclaimed it.

Within the text too, Malone had to dodge the implications of his own specification, indeed whenever any of the first 126 sonnets were explicitly erotic or amatory. Footnotes then must strain to distance Shakespeare from their content, as did the note to the notorious sonnet 20: 'such addresses to men, however indelicate, were customary in our author's time, and neither imported criminality, nor were esteemed indecorous' (p. 207). Even more belaboured was Malone's rationalization of Shakespeare's references to himself as the 'lover' of the male youth. Here, too, it is not Shakespeare who offends, but rather the custom of his age: and the customary offence was even then not at the level of conduct but at the level of speech. It was 'Such addresses to men', 'expressions of this kind', as well as 'the general tenour of the greater part of them' that were 'common in Shakespeare's time, and … not thought indecorous' [my emphasis] (pp. 219-20). For Malone, nothing separated his present from Shakespeare's past more than the 'strange' custom among men of speaking of other men as their 'lovers'.17 The offence was linguistic and literary and not behavioural; to censure the Sonnets would, therefore, be as 'unreasonable' as faulting the plays for violating Aristotle's Poetics—an anachronistic literary judgement (p. 207). Thus for Malone the greatest difference between his late eighteenth-century and Shakespeare's late sixteenth-century was that in Shakespeare's time, male/male desire was a manner of speaking and not doing, whereas in Malone's more enlightened time it was neither: not done, not even spoken of (hence his repeated euphemisms and circumlocutions).

There is another remarkable instance of how Malone embroils himself in his own editorial commitments. While wanting to read the Sonnets as personal poems, he must impersonalize what his edition foregrounds as their most salient feature: that most of them are addressed to a young male. His longest footnote stretching across six pages pertains to sonnet 93, 'So shall I live supposing thou art true', a sonnet on sexual jealousy. He fastened on this sonnet in full conviction that Shakespeare, in the Sonnets as well as in the plays, wrote with particular intensity on the subject of jealousy because he himself had experienced it; it was his 'intimate knowledge' of jealousy that enabled him to write on the subject 'more immediately from the hear? (p. 266). Malone avoids the scandal that Shakespeare experienced sexual jealousy for a boy by a 'Bensonian' changing of Shakespeare's boy to Shakespeare's wife, thereby violating his own ascription of the first 126 sonnets to a male, or rather 'not a female'. This weird displacement freed Malone to talk comfortably about Shakespeare's sexual experience—in heterosexual (Shakespeare as cuckold) rather than homosexual terms (Shakespeare as pederast). A digression on his wife's infidelity provided the additional benefit of justifying the adulterous liaison that the second group of sonnets recorded—Shakespeare was unfaithful to his wife because she had first been unfaithful to him. Realizing the danger of such inferences, Steevens (in the notes he contributed to Malone's edition) attempted to block it by insisting that the poem reflected not Shakespeare's experience but his observation, an impersonal rather than a personal relation (pp. 266-8). Malone stuck fast to his position, finding grounds for Shakespeare's experience of jealousy in documents, anecdotes, and the plays themselves.

James Boswell the younger, when he completed Malone's edition of The Plays and Poems in 1821, sided with Steevens, ruling Malone's conviction as 'uncomfortable conjecture'.18 The judgement was unusual for Boswell, for throughout the twenty-one volume edition he rarely contradicted his friend and mentor. Yet his comments on the Sonnets opposed Malone with astonishing frequency. Indeed it would be fair to say that Boswell dismantled all of the connections Malone had worked so hard to forge between the Sonnets and Shakespeare's experience. The reason is clear: Boswell wanted to counteract the impression that Malone's 1780 edition, reissued in 1790, had produced: it is 'generally admitted that the poet speaks in his own person' (p. 219). Boswell, in the preliminary and concluding remarks with which he bracketed Malone's edition, as well as in scattered internal notes, attempted to stifle all autobiographical possibilities, beginning with Malone's opening identification of 'the individual to whom they were principally addressed, and the circumstances under which they were written'. The Sonnets could not have been addressed to any real nobleman for none, according to Boswell, would have tolerated such effeminizing verse. Any 'distinguished nobleman' would have taken offence at the 'encomiums on his beauty, and the fondling expressions' appropriate only to a 'cocker'd silken wanton' (p. 219). Thus such amorous language could not have been 'customary' between men in Shakespeare's time, as Malone had insisted, for it would have implied that men were effeminate. For Boswell, male desire for males could not have been an acceptable way of even speaking, even back then. For him, male/male desire existed no-where (in England anyway), not in Shakespeare's past, not in his own present; not in language, not in deed. It was sheer make-believe: what Boswell terms, not unsalaciously, 'effusions of fancy … for the amusement of a private circle' (p. 220).

To establish their status as 'fancy', Boswell must sever all the connections Malone had forged between the Sonnets and Shakespeare's life. And so he does, one by one: Shakespeare was as young as thirty-four or at most forty-five when writing the sonnets so how could it be he who is represented as old and decrepit in several sonnets? Of course, it is not the association with old age (or with the theatre) that disturbed Boswell, but the logical extension of any connection: 'If Shakespeare was speaking of himself in this passage, it would follow that he is equally pointed at upon other occasions' (p. 220). More specifically, if it was Shakespeare who was old then it was also he who was 'grossly and notoriously profligate', the perpetrator of '"harmful deeds"', whose '"name had received a brand"', and whose reputation suffered from the '"impression which vulgar scandal stamped upon his brow"'. Such identifications were, Boswell insisted, absurd, for among the extant biographical materials 'not the slightest imputation [was] cast upon his character'. This is not surprising, for Malone and Boswell in their New Life of Shakespeare had rejected as factually inaccurate the numerous scandalous anecdotes that had cast him in the shady roles of poacher, adulterer, and carouser.19

If Boswell found any fault at all in Shakespeare, it was for his 'selection of topics', his representation in any form of male/male desire. But Boswell legitimized this choice by attributing it to Shakespeare's altogether admirable 'fondness for classical imitation' (p. 221). Boswell now is at last able to name the unspeakable topic, though only in simultaneously disavowing it: and not in his own words, but in words properly removed from his own by quotation marks and from standard English by sixteenth-century old spelling. The quotation is from Webbe's Discourse of English Poetrie that defends Virgil's second eclogue by insisting that the poet 'doth not meane …any disordered loue, or the filthy lust of deuillish Pederastice' (p. 221).20 Boswell keeps a clean distance from the 'filthy' object as if afraid of dirtying his ivory rake and golden spade. Having dismantled all of Malone's connections, Boswell can conclude with a discussion of the Sonnets' literary merits, the only relevant consideration after they have been wrenched from toxic reality and consigned to innocuous fancy.

I have discussed the Malone (1780, 1790) and the Malone/Boswell (1821) editions because it is with them that the modern history of the Sonnets begins, and since no full edition of the 1609 Quarto was printed prior to Malone's, that belated history can be considered their only history.21 They have the further importance of having established the two critical approaches that have repeated themselves for two centuries now—sometimes ingeniously, sometimes hysterically: (1) Malone's—the Sonnets are about Shakespeare but not as a lover of young men or, (2) Boswell's—the Sonnets are not about Shakespeare or anything else, especially not about Shakespeare as a lover of young men. Though these approaches are antithetical and mutually exclusive, it must be stressed that both are motivated by the same urgency to deny Shakespeare's desire for a male.

In this regard the history of the Sonnets' reception provides a stunning example of the phenomenon Jonathan Dollimore has recently identified: the centrality of homosexuality in a culture that denounces it.22 The denial of homosexuality in the Sonnets has produced the two polarized approaches by which they have been traditionally read for two centuries. Furthermore, what has been denied (by evasions, displacements, circumlocutions, suppressions, abstractions, etc.) has slipped into the text itself producing (as if from the Sonnets themselves) an hermeneutical interior capable of concealing a sin, a crime, a pathology. The unspeakable of Sonnets criticism has thus become the unspoken of the Sonnets—to the exclusion of, as has yet to be seen, what they quite forthrightly say.


I now wish to turn to one of Malone's major editorial acts, his division of the sonnets into two gendered groups, 126 to a young man, the remaining twenty-eight to a woman. The division has been generally accepted. It seems, after all, quite obvious: none of the first 126 sonnets are addressed explicitly to a woman and none of the remaining twenty-eight are addressed explicitly to a male. Explicitly is the key word, for what Malone's clear-cut division has obscured is the astonishing number of sonnets that do not make the gender of the addressee explicit.23 Shakespeare is exceptional among the English sonneteers (Sidney, Spenser, and Daniel, for example) in leaving the beloved's gender unspecified in so many of the sonnets: about five-sixths of them in the first 126 and just less than that in the collection entire. The uncertainty of the beloved's gender is sustained by other types of ambiguity, most notoriously in the 'master-mistress' sonnet 20, but also in sonnet 53 in which the youth is described as a paragon of both masculine and feminine beauty, of both Adonis and Helen; similarly, a variety of epithets recur that apply to either sex: rose, friend, love, lover, sweet, fair.

The little evidence we have of how the Sonnets were read before Malone strongly suggtests that the first 126 sonnets were not read as being exclusively to a male. Benson assumed that the sonnets were to a female unless otherwise specified, as the titles he assigned to his groupings indicate.24 So too did the numerous eighteenth-century editors who reprinted Benson: Gildon (1723) referred to them as 'being most to his Mistress' and Sewell (1725) believed them to have been inspired by 'a real, or an imaginary Lady'.25 Independent of Benson, there is further and earlier evidence. Gary Taylor has discussed five manuscript versions of sonnet 2 from the early decades of the seventeenth century with the title 'To one that would die a maid'26 there is also a 1711 reprint of the 1609 quarto that describes the collection as '154 Sonnets all of them in Praise of his Mistress.'27 The eighteenth-century antiquarian William Oldys who possessed a copy of the quarto assumed that some of the first 126 sonnets were addressed to a female, and George Steevens defended his logic: 'From the complaints of inconstancy, and the praises of beauty, contained in them, [the Sonnets] should seem at first sight to be addressed by an inamorato to a mistress'.28 Malone's preliminary note announcing the division at 126 literally prevented such a 'first sight', precluding the possibility open to earlier readers of assuming the ungendered sonnets to a female.

This is not, however, to say that Malone got it wrong: clearly no sonnets are addressed to a female in the first 126 and none to a male (except Cupid) in the subsequent twenty-eight. Just as clearly, the poet abandons the young man in 126 and declares his allegiance to a mistress in 127 and the formal irregularities (twelve pentameter lines in couplets) may punctuate that shift.29 Nor is there any reason not to take 144's announcement—'Two loves I have': 'a man right fair' and 'a woman, colour'd ill'—at face value. Some kind of binary division appears to be at work.30 The question is whether that division is best described in terms—or only in terms—of gender difference: in terms, that is, of the object choices that have lent themselves so readily to the modern distinction between homosexuality and heterosexuality.31

For that construction of desire—as Foucault's expansive history of sexuality as well as Alan Bray's concentration on the Renaissance have demonstrated32—depended on a construal of the body and of the psyche that postdated Shakespeare, like Malone's edition itself, by about two centuries. It may then be that Malone's overly emphatic division of the Sonnets into male/female appears more in keeping with the cultural preoccupations at the turn of the eighteenth century than of the sixteenth. It may be symptomatic of a much later emphasis on sexual differentiation, one that has been fully charted out recently in Thomas Laqueur's Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud.23

According to Laqueur, 'Sometime in the eighteenth century, sex as we know it was invented.'34 What he means by this bold pronouncement is that until then there was essentially one sex rather than two. According to the classical or Galenic model, the female possessed an inverted, interior, and inferior version of male genitalia; as countless anatomical drawings attest, the uterus was imagined as an inverted scrotum, the vagina an inverted penis, the vulva an inverted foreskin. Reproductive processes as well as parts were also on par, so that conception required orgasm from both male and female. Not until the eighteenth century were male and female typically divided into two discrete sexes with distinct reproductive parts and processes: hence the invention of 'sex as we know it'. The shift is reflected in an array of verbal and graphic representations: the construction of a different skeleton for women than for men; anatomical drawings representing incommensurate reproductive structures rather than homologous ones; the division of formerly shared nomenclature into male and female so that once ungendered sperm, testicles, and stones are gendered male and differentiated from female eggs and ovaries. In short, a reproductive biology was constructed based on absolute rather than relative difference. It is only then, Laqueur notes, that the expression 'opposites attract' is coined, suggesting that 'natural' sexual attraction is between unlikes rather than likes.35

As Laqueur points out, this reconstrual removed sexuality from a vast system of metaphysical correspondences based, like society itself, on hierarchical order and situated it firmly in the body or 'nature'. That a woman was previously imagined to possess less perfected versions of male genitalia legitimized her subordination to man. Biology thus upheld social hierarchy. Once difference was grounded in the body rather than in metaphysics, once male and female anatomy was perceived as incommensurate rather than homologous, then sexuality lost its 'social' bearings and became instead a matter of 'nature'. As Laqueur insists repeatedly, and as his characterization of the shift as an invention rather than as a discovery suggests, the change represents no empirical or scientific advance—'No discovery or group of discoveries dictated the rise of the two-sex model'36—but rather a cultural and political reorientation. Malone's division of the Sonnets may best be understood in the context of this reorientation.

There is another shift that strangely corresponds to both Malone's twofold division and biology's two-sex model, and it occurs at roughly the same point in time. In eighteenth-century grammars and discussions of grammar, a new attention to linguistic gender binaries appears. The hierarchy preserved in the one-sex model had also applied in questions of grammatical agreement: male gender prevailed over female because it was the 'more worthy' gender. In his popular rhetoric (1553), Thomas Wilson considered natural order violated when women preceded men in a syntactic construction, since man was clearly the dominant gender. In his official Latin Grammar (1567), William Lyly assumed the same principle in explaining that an adjective describing both a male and female noun must agree with the male ('Rex et Regina Beati') because 'The masculine gender is more worthy than the feminine.'37 In the eighteenth century, however, this ontological and grammatical hierarchy has ceased to be self-evident. And the reason appears to be that grammar now looks to biology rather than to metaphysics for its lead. New discoveries in biology are brought to bear on grammar, so that it is maintained that the discovery that plants have sexes introduced inconsistency into classical grammar's classification of plants as neuter.38 In highly gendered languages like German, a general rethinking of conventional grammatical gender occurs. In English that possesses no conventional grammatical gendering, the problem took a more focused form. Towards the end of the eighteenth century, the first call for an epicene or gender-neutral pronoun is heard, in response to what is only then perceived as a problem: what to do with constructions like 'everyone should go to his place' where a female and male antecedent is represented by the male 'his'.39 As in biology, grammar can no longer assume an hierarchical relation between male and female to justify the predominance of male gender.

It is not only in relation to the third person that hierarchy disappears; in English, it had also by the start of the eighteenth century disappeared from the second person. In standard English, thee/thou had been dropped in favour of you, collapsing the complexly nuanced range of distinctions based on class relations. It is curious that Malone, who took great pride in noting philological difference in Shakespeare's age, ignored the second person pronoun while focusing on the third. Several recent critics, however, have discussed it, noting that the first 126 sonnets vacillate between you and thou, while the second twenty-eight consistently stick to thou.40 Their explanations have been varied, contradictory and incomplete; the highly complex code remains unbroken. What can be ventured, however, is that the unwritten rules governing second person usage in the Renaissance were social and hierarchic.41 They originated in social rank, though clearly complicated by a calculus of differentials that included age, gender, education, experience, race, ethical worth, emotional stake, etc.42

This is not to propose a new division, the first 126 to 'you/thou' the next twenty-eight to 'thou'43—but rather to suggest that gender difference is not the only way to differentiate the Sonnets' 'Two loves'. There are other forms of otherness that the Malonean or modern tradition has ignored. Sexual difference is only one differential category in these poems, class is another, so is age, reputation, marital status, moral probity, even physical availability. In each of these categories, the poet is more like the mistress than like the youth; love of like would, therefore, incline him more to the mistress than the boy. It is because Joel Fineman's awesome Shakespeare's Perjured Eye: The Invention of Poetic Subjectivity in the Sonnets limits difference to sexual difference that its argument is so troubling. For more relentlessly and consequentially than any one since Malone, Fineman has emphasized the distinction between male and female; indeed, it is funda-mental to his Lacanian account of the constitution of subjectivity. The rupturing transition required by this account occurs, for Fineman, in the move from homosexual love of the same to heterosexual love of the other, from the ideal specularity of the youth to the false linguistics of the mistress, a move that readily translates into the Lacanian break from the imaginary into the symbolic. In short, Fineman bases what may be the vastest claim ever made for the Sonnets—that they invent poetic subjectivity for the western tradition—on sexual difference, on that rupturing but constitutive transition from a like and admired object to an unlike and loathed one.44 Yet in light of the biological and grammatical phenomena we have been attending, Fineman's construal of sexual difference is premature. The 'Invention of Poetic Subjectivity' he attributes to Shakespeare must await 'the invention of sex' Laqueur sees as an eighteenth-century phenomenon. Until male and female can be seen as two dis-crete sexes rather than variants on one sex, how can subjectivity be constituted in the break between the two?

It is because Fineman overstresses the gender division at sonnet 126 that his study might be seen as the culmination of the Malonean tradition. Focus on male/female difference lends itself too readily to a psychosexuality that excludes the psychosocial. If social distinctions like class or even age were introduced, for example, the entire Lacanian progression would be turned on its head, for the poet would experience the youth's aristocratic otherness before the mistress's bourgeois sameness, his extreme junior before his approximate peer. How, then, would it be possible to make the transition Lacanian subjectivity requires from imaginary identification to symbolic dislocation? I've put the burden of two centuries of criticism on Fineman's massively difficult book in order to make a very simple point: tradition has postulated (and concealed) in the Sonnets a sexual scandal that is based in the personal abstracted from the social, on a biology of two-sexes rather than on an epistemology of one-sex, on division according to a gendered third person rather than a ranked second person. As I will show in the remainder of this paper by turning—at long last—to the Sonnets themselves, this has been a mistake … so big a mistake that the real scandal has been passed over.


The ideological force of the imperious first line of the Sonnets has gone virtually unnoticed: 'From fairest creatures we desire increase.'45 In the first seventeen poems which have traditionally (and rather preciously) been titled the procreation sonnets, there can be no pretence of fair being either an abstract value like the Platonic Good or a disinterested one like the Kantian Beautiful. Fair is the distinguishing attribute of the dominant class, not unlike Bourdieu's taste that serves both to distinguish the dominant class and, by distinguishing it, to keep it dominant.46 The first seventeen sonnets urging the fair youth to marry and beget a son have an open and explicit social function: to reproduce, like an Althusserian state apparatus, the status quo by reproducing a fair young man, ide-ally 'ten for one' (6). The preservation of the youth pre-serves his aristocratic family line, dynasty or 'house': 'Who lets so faire a house fall to decay?' (13). If such houses are allowed to deteriorate, the social formation would itself be at risk: hence the general (and conservative) desire to increase 'fairest creatures' and to convince those privileged creatures that the repair of their 'beau-tious roofe' should be their 'chiefs desire' (10). Were these houses and roofs unfair, there would be no cultural imperative to maintain them, just as there is none to re-produce fair (homely) persons: 'Let those whom nature hath not made for store, / Harsh featureless, and rude, barrenly perish' (11); while the youth is 'much too faire, / To be deaths conquest and make wormes thine heire,' (6) the 'Harsh, featureless, and rude' can return to dust unlamented. 'Increase' is to be desired only from those whom Nature has 'best indow'd' with 'bountious guift' (11); and those gifts are not simply physical or spiritual riches but the social and material ones that structure society from the top. For this reason, it is only the fair lineaments of fair lineages that should be reproduced for posterity—'Thou shouldst print more, not let that coppy die.'

Underscoring the social concerns of this first group is their origin in pedagogical materials designed to cultivate fair young men. As has long been noted, these sonnets derive from Erasmus' 'Epistle to persuade a young gentleman to marriage', Englished in Thomas Wilson's widely influential 1553 The Arte of Rhetorique.47 The treatise was used in schools as a rhetorical exercise in persuasion. Languet repeated it in a letter to the young Sidney and Sidney in turn echoed it in his Arcadia, that consummate expression of aristocratic ethos. The treatise's tropes and arguments attained commonplace status, as is suggested by the seventeenth-century popularity of the sonnet that deploys the most of them, sonnet 2, copies of which survive in twelve early manuscripts.48 It seems likely, then, that these opening sonnets would have evoked the pedagogical context which prepared fair young men to assume the social position to which high birth entitled them. The 'private friends' among whom according to Francis Meres these sonnets circulated as well as the patron to whom the collection is ostensibly dedicated can be assumed to have recognized this rhetoric as a blueprint for reproducing the fair values of the dominant class.49

Shakespeare's 'Two loves' relate to this opening set piece quite explicitly: after sonnet 17, it is through his own poetic lines rather than the youth's generational loins that fair's lineaments are to be reproduced, fair's lineage ex-tended.50 The fair line ends, however, at 127 with the shocking declaration that 'now is blacke beauties successive heire'. As if a black child had been born of a fair parent, a miscegenating successor is announced, one who razes fair's lineage ('And Beautie slandered with a bastard shame') and seizes fair's language ('beauty hath no name')—genealogy and etymology. Desire inverts its object at this breaking point: from an embodiment of a social ideal to an embodiment of a social atrocity. In praising the youth's fair lineaments, social distinction had been maintained; in praising the mistress's dark colours, social distinction is confounded. This reverses the modern ranking of the 'Two loves' that has found one unspeakable and the other simply regrettable. For the love of the youth 'right fair' which tradition has deemed scandalous promotes a social programme while the love for the mistress 'collour'd ill' which tradition has allowed threatens to annihilate it.

This is a sign, I think, that there is something misleading about the male/female categories by which Malone divided the collection: they too easily slip into the post-Enlightenment categories of homosexual and heterosexual which provoke responses that are precisely the inverse of what the Sonnets themselves call for. I would like to propose instead that the two groups be reconsidered under rubrics available in the period, appearing in E. K.'s note to the Shepherdes Calendar defending Hobbinol's passion for young Colin Clout on the grounds that 'paederastice [is] much to be preferred before gynerastice, that is the love that inflameth men with lust toward woman-kind'.51 Unlike homosexual and heterosexual, the terms better correspond with Shakespeare's 'better' and 'worser' loves, his pederastie love of a boy ('my lovely Boy', 126) and gynerastic love of a womb (the irresistible 'waste of shame', 129).52 As E. K. specifies, pederastic love is 'much to be preferred' over gynerastic, and the Sonnets demonstrate, why: because it does not imperil social distinction.

Indeed the poet's main task in the first group is to protect those distinctions, a task that takes the specific form of preserving the youth's lineaments from Time's disfigurations. Shakespeare's 'pupill pen' is in contest with 'Times pensel' (16). In his own verse lines, he would transcribe the youth's fair features before 'confounding Age' unfairs them by cross-hatching his physiognomic lineaments with 'lines and wrincles' (63), cancelling or deleting the youth's fair copy, rendering him thereby 'featureless' like those consigned to perish barrenly—as if to make him indistinguishable from the 'Harsh' and 'rude'. In the gynerastic group, however, it is not Time but Lust that threatens distinction. Lust mars not through the sharp incisions of Time's stylus—its pen-knife—but through the obscuring adulterations of 'a woman colour'd ill'. While Time's deadly scriptings disfigure what is seen, Lust's murky adulterations confound what is known. Once a black mistress preempts the fair youth, a whole range of epistemologica! distinctions collapse: between black and fair (131, 132) to be sure, but also between truth and lies (138); private and public (137); first person and second, first person and third (135-6); past, present, and future (129); is and is not (147), worst and best (150), angel and friend (144). In the first group, though aging himself ('Beated and chopt with tand antiquitie' (62), the poet sets himself up as Time's adversary, his own glamourizing lines counteracting Time's disfiguring marks; in the second group, however, Lust and Will are familiars rather than adversaries, so much so that Will is literally synonymous with Lust in 135 and 136, and Lust personified blurs into Will's person in 129. Pederasty's 'Pupil Pen' reinscribes the pedagogical ideal with which the Sonnets begin; while the gynerastic 'waste of shame' adulterates even the most black and white distinctions.

This is not to say that love of the youth is altogether 'of comfort'. The majority of the sonnets to him register intense longing, humiliation, loss felt and anticipated, betrayal, and even worse, self-betrayal—all the result, perhaps, of a cultural overinvestment in 'fairest creatures'. Yet the cost is nothing in comparison with what gynerasty exacts.53 As the promiscuous womb threatens social order, so too gynerasty threatens psychic stability. Will himself takes on the hysterical attributes of the womb that obsesses him, in the breathlessly frantic copulatives of 129, in the semantic confusions listed above which in sonnet 147 he calls 'mad mans' discourse. There could be no more shocking manifestation of his hysteria than sonnet 136 in which every word could be said to signal his desire, homonymically or synonymically.54 This maniacal repetition is audible in 'Will, will fulfill the treasure of thy loue, / I fill it full with wils, and my will one', but it is present in all the sonnet's phonetic variables as well, reducing their signification to the tautological deadlock of 'Will wills will'. Nor is Will ever released from this uterine obsession; like all men in sonnet 129, he does not know how to avoid the sulphuric pit (144), how 'To shun the heauen that leads men to this hell' (129); hence the fatal return in the final two Anacreontics to his mistress's genital 'eye', her inflammatory and unquenchable 'Well'.55

But the real horror of gynerasty is social and general rather than personal and particular. Edgar in Lear contemns Goneril's royal womb adulterated by the bastard Edmund as 'indinguish'd [sic] space of Womans will'.56 It is precisely this failure of discrimination that characterizes the dark lady's sexual capacity, as is evidenced by her indiscrete admission of Wills. In these sonnets it is not only common names that lose distinction, but also proper. Men named Will are indistinguishable: Will Shakespeare would be among them, and perhaps Will of the dedication's Mr W. H., and perhaps the mistress's husband is also Will, but what difference does it make when Will like Homo (like 'sausie lackes' too) is a common name to all?57 Repeatedly in these sonnets the indiscriminated womb is contrasted with that exclusive treasured 'place' or 'viali' (6) in which the youth's purely aristocratic seed would be antiseptically distilled or 'pent in walls of glasse' (5). The 'large and spacious' place that is the focus of desire in the second group is no such discerning 'seuerall plot': it is 'the wide worlds common place' (137) and primarily an incontinently liquid one—'the baye where all men ride' (137) and 'sea all water, [that] yet receiues raine still' (135)—in which all distinctions of blood bleed into one another.

As the law itself under Elizabeth confirmed by more severely prosecuting fornication between men and women than between men, nothing threatens a patriarchal and hierarchic social formation more than a promiscuous womb. By commingling blood-lines, it has the potential to destroy the social fabric itself. The gynecrasty of the Sonnets, then, needs to be considered in terms of the range of sexual practices Alan Bray has foregrounded (among them, bestiality, adultery, rape, and prostitution) that were in the period termed 'sodomy' and associated with such crimes There is against as sorcery, and treason.58 There is good reason, therefore, to credit Jonathan Goldberg's recent suggestion that in Renaissance terms, it is Shakespeare's sonnets to the dark lady rather than those to the young man that are sodomitic.59

The dark lady's indiscriminate womb images social anarchy no less than Lear's invocation of cosmic cataclysm: "all germains spill at once'.60 The germains spill serially in the mistress rather than all 'at once', but with the same helterskelter randomness, including those of the fair youth, so that his noble seed is intermixed with that of common 'sausie Iackes' (128) and of unnumbered intercoursing 'Wills'.61 The patriarchal dream of producing fair young men turns into the patriarchal nightmare of a social melting pot, made all the more horrific by the fact that the mistress's black is the antithesis not just of fair but of white. Tradition has been ever slower to entertain the possibility that these poems express desire for a black woman rather than desire for a boy. But the important work that is being done on England's contact with Africa and on its cultural representations of that contact is making it increasingly difficult to dissociate in this period blackness from racial blackness—black from blackamoor—promiscuity from miscegenation, especially in a work that begins by arguing for the perpetuation of pure fair blood.62

This paper began with one traditional error and ends with another. The first was minor, an erroneous representation of Benson's publishing efforts. The last, however, is quite major. The scandal in the Sonnets had been misidentified. It is not Shakespeare's desire for a boy; for in upholding social distinctions, that desire proves quite conservative and safe. It is Shakespeare's gynerastic longings for a black mistress that are perverse and menacing, precisely because they threaten to raze the very distinctions his poems to the fair boy strain to preserve. As with the Benson falsification, it is the motive behind the error that is worth thinking about. And I will end by doing so.

Since the eighteenth century, sexuality has been seen in biological and psychological terms rather than social.63 Perversion, therefore, is seen as pathological rather than subversive. But in a period in which the distribution of power and property depended on orderly sexuality, it remained imperative that sexuality be understood and judged in social terms. The social consequences of sexual arrangements (whether male-female marriages or male-male alliances) and derangements (male-female adultery or male-male sodomy) was too basic to allow them to become merely personal matters—to become, that is, what they have become in modern sexual discourse: the pre-condition of personal identity. Modern readings of the Sonnets (the only kind we have) have skewed the relation of Shakespeare's 'Two loves' to conform with this classification. The result is quite topsy-turvy: readings of the young man sonnets have concealed a personal scandal that was never there; and readings of dark mistress sonnets have been blank to the shocking social peril they promulgate. A category mistake lies at the bottom of this odd hermeneutic: the Sonnets' 'Two loves' have been misclassified, the 'love of comfort' avoided as abnormal and unnatural and the 'love of despaire' countenanced as normal and natural. This essay has argued that a reclassification is in order according to a different system altogether, one that would replace the personal categories of normalcy and abnormalcy with the social ones of hierarchy and anarchy—of desired generation and abhorred miscegenation.


1A New Variorum Edition of Shakespeare: The Sonnets, 2 vols. (Philadelphia, Pa. and London, 1944), vol. 2, p. 20, n. I. Sidney Lee in his introduction to a 1905 facsimile of the Sonnets noted Benson's changes but without intemizing them or speculating on Benson's motives: Shakespeare's Sonnets: Being a Reproduction in Facsimile of the First Edition (Oxford, 1905), pp. 57-8.

2The Sonnets and A Lover's Complaint (Middlesex and New York, 1986), p. 46.

3 Benson gives the title 'Selfe flattery of her beautie' to sonnets 113-15, 'Upon receit of a Table Booke from his Mistris' to sonnet 122, 'An intreatie for her acceptance' to sonnet 125. See Rollins, vol. 2, pp. 20-1 for a list of Benson's titles.

4 Cf. Rollins, pp. 20 and 29.

5 Benson (London, 1640).

6 The only other sonnet referring to the beloved as 'boy' (sonnet 126, 'O thou my lovely boy') was with seven others dropped from the 1640 collection, perhaps by accident.

7 See Stephen Booth's gloss to sonnet 110, lines 9-12, pp. 356-7 as well as to sonnet 109, lines 9, 10, 13, 14, pp. 352-3 in Shakespeare's Sonnets (New Haven, Conn, and London, 1977).

8 For accounts of how Benson's printing-house and editorial practices have also been maligned, see Josephine Waters Bennett, 'Benson's Alleged Piracy of Shakespeares Sonnets and of Some of Jonson's Works', Studies in Bibliography, 21 (1968), pp. 235-48. See also

9 On the hysterical response to this problem in modern readings of the Sonnets, see Peter Stallybrass, 'Editing as Cultural Formation: The Sexing of Shakespeare's Sonnets', Modern Language Quarterly, 54, (March, 1993), 91-103.

10Supplement to the Edition of Shakespeare's Plays Published in 1778 by Samuel Johnson and George Steevens, 2 vols. (1780), vol. 2.

11Twenty of the Plays of Shakespeare, 4 vols., ed. George Steevens (1766).

12 Quoted by Rollins, vol. I, p. 55.

13 See de Grazia, p. 154.

14 See de Grazia, pp. 155-6.

15 For the profusion of deictics in the Sonnets, see Joel Fineman, Shakespeare's Perjured Eye: The Invention of Poetic Subjectivity in the Sonnets (Berkeley, Los Angeles, London, 1986), pp. 8-9, p. 311, n. 6.

16The Plays and Poems of William Shakespeare, 10 vols. (1790; facs. rpt, New York, 1968), vol. 10, pp. 191, 265, 294. Subsequent references to this volume will appear in text.

17 On 'lover', see Booth, p. 432.

18The Plays and Poems of William Shakespeare (1821; facs. rpt, New York, 1966), vol. 20, p. 309. Page references to this volume will henceforth appear parenthetically in text.

19 For Malone's invalidation of the inculpatory anecdotes, see de Grazia, pp. 104-7, pp. 135-41.

20 Boswell corrects Webbe for referring to the eclogue as the sixth ('by a slip of memory, or the printer's mistake') when it should be the fourth (p. 221). Bruce R. Smith situates this eclogue in Renaissance pastoral in 'The Passionate Shepherd', Homosexual Desire in Shakespeare's England: A Cultural Poetics (Chicago and London, 1991), pp. 79-115.

21 The 1609 Sonnets were reprinted but without an apparatus by Bernard Lintott in 1711 and by George Steevens in 1766.

22Sexual Dissidence: Augustine to Wilde, Freud to Foucault (Oxford, 1991).

23 See Booth's scrupulous account of the division, p. 430.

24 Rollins aligns the 1640 titles with the 1609 sonnet numbers, vol. 2, pp. 21-2.

25 See de Grazia, p. 155, n. 57.

26 'Some Manuscripts of Shakespeare's Sonnets', Bulletin of The John Rylands University Library, 68, 1 (1985), 217.

27 Bernard Lintott, A Collection of poems in Two Volumes … Being all the Miscellanies of Mr William Shakespeare, which were Publish'd by himself in the Year 1609 … , 2 vols.

28 Malone and Boswell, p. 306.

29 In the 1609 quarto, the irregularity is rendered typo-graphically conspicuous by two sets of empty brackets in place of the final couplet.

30 On the possibility that the Sonnets were organized according to a tripartite structure (152 Sonnets, 2 Anacreontics, a Complaint) based on generic rather than gender difference following the model of Daniel, Spenser, Lodge, and others, see John Kerrigan's Introduction to Sonnets, pp. 13-14 and the bibliographic references on p. 66.

31 On the taxonomy of 'homo' and 'hetero', see Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, The Epistemology of the Closet (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1990).

32 Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, vol. 1: An Introduction, trans., Robert Hurley (New York, 1978) and Alan Bray, Homosexuality in Renaissance England (London, 1982).

33 (Cambridge, Mass. and London, 1990).

34 P. 149. Laqueur notes the agreement of Michel Foucault, Lawrence Stone, and Ivan Illich in identifying the late eighteenth century as the point at which human sexuality was reconceptualized, p. 5 and n. 14.

35 P. 152.

36 P. 153.

37A Short Introduction of Grammar (London, 1530), p. 47.

38 See Dennis Barron, Grammar and Gender (New Haven, Conn., 1986) p. 35.

39 Ibid. pp. 190-1.

40 See G. P. Jones, 'You, Thou, He or She? The Master-Mistress in Shakespearian and Elizabethan Sonnet Sequences', Cahiers Elisabéthains 19 (1981), 73-84 and Andrew Gurr, 'You and Thou in Shakespeare's Sonnets', Essays in Criticism, 32 (1982), 9-25. Arthur F. Marotti is sensitive to the tonal effects of such positionalities in his discussion of how Shakespeare's artistry can compensate for his inferior social rank, in 'Love is not Love: Elizabethan Sonnet Sequences and The Social Order', English Literary History, 49 (1982), 413-16.

41 On the origins of the distinction between tu/vos in Latin and thou/you in English, see R. Brown and A. Gilman, 'The Pronouns of Power and Solidarity', in T. A. Sebeok, ed., Style in Language (Amherst, Mass., 1960), pp. 253-76.

42 The same perplexing instability of address characterizes another male/male couple divided by rank, not to mention age, experience, and size: Falstaff and Hal, who shift constantly from one form to the other as they uneasily jockey for position in a relationship characterized by jockeying, a relationship in which male/male erotic desire is, as Jonathan Goldberg has recently argued, not entirely absent, 'Hal's Desire, Shakespeare's Idaho', forthcoming in Henry IV, ed. Nigel Wood (Open University). I wish to thank him for letting me read the typescript.

43 Sonnet 145 is the sole exception which substitutes 'you' for 'thou', in the interest of preserving rhyme: 'I hate, from hate away she threw, / And sau'd my life saying not you'.

44 The book's overinvestment in gender binaries raises troubling political and hermeneutic questions. Its argument that subjectivity is attained through the renunciation of the imaginary realm of homosexual sameness bears a disturbing resemblance to a pseudo-Freudianism that perceives homosexuality as stunted or incomplete development. It also requires that sonnets 1-126 be read as univocal and 127-52 as equivocal, though Fineman later revises this programme by maintaining that equivocation is present in both groups, though only latently in the first.

45 The Sonnets will henceforth be quoted from the facsimile of the 1609 Shakespeares Sonnets printed in Stephen Booth's edition. Lars Engle has recently discussed this first line as inaugurating the Sonnets' concern with 'human value in time', but without noting the specific class inflection of this value, 'Afloat in Thick Deeps: Shakespeare's Sonnets on Certainty', Publications of the Modern Language Association, 104 (1989), 832-43.

46 Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, trans. Richard Nice (Cambridge, Mass., 1984).

47 For the influence of this epistle on Shakespeare and others, see Rollins, Variorum 1, p. 7 and 11, p. 192, T. W. Baldwin, The Literary Genetics of Shakespeare's Poems and Sonnets (Urbana, Ill., 1950), pp. 183-5, and Katharine M. Wilson, Shakespeare's Sugared Sonnets (London and N. Y., 1974), pp. 146-67.

48 See Taylor, pp. 210-46.

49 This is not to say that the Sonnets unequivocally reproduce aristocratic value. As Thomas M. Greene points out, the thrift and husbandry urged upon the young man in the first seventeen sonnets is decidedly bourgeois ('Pitiful Thrivers: Failed Husbandry in the Sonnets', Shakespeare and the Question of Theory, ed. Patricia Parker and Geoffrey Hartman (N.Y. and London, 1985, pp. 230-44.) Furthermore, the socially inferior poet (sonnets 25 and 110) by taking on the youth's responsibility for reproducing fair in effect assumes aristocracy's genetic privilege: his inky poetic lines preempt the youth's fair genealogical ones: 'His beautie shall in these blacke lines be seene' (63).

50 For the semantic and homonymic connections between lines and lineaments, see William Empson, Seven Types of Ambiguity (New York, 1947), pp. 54-5, cited by Booth, p. xiii. For the line/loin resonances, see Additional Notes to Booth's 1978 edition, p. 579.

51 Kerrigan brings E. K.'s gloss to bear on the Sonnets to conclude that the Sonnets register a 'profound homosexual attachment of a scarcely sensual, almost unrealized kind', p. 51; Stephen Orgel comments briefly on the psychological and legal advantages of 'paederastice' over 'gynerastice' in 'The Boys in the Back Room: Shakespeare's Apprentices and the Economics of Theater', unpublished manuscript. See also

52 On the identification of woman with womb, see Richard Verstegan: 'And as Homo in Latin doth signifie both man and woman, so in our toung the feminyne creature also hath as we see the same of man, but more aptly in that it is for due distinction composed with womb, she being that kynde of mann that is wombed, or hath the womb of conception, which the man of the male kynd hath not', The Restitution of Decayed Intelligence (Antwerp, 1605), p. 194.

53 Stephen Orgel, in commenting on the 'all but axiomatic' love of men for boys in the period, refers to the Sonnets as evidence that 'the problem of sex between men involves a good deal less anxiety' than between men and women, 'The Boys in the Back Room: Shakespeare's Apprentices and the Economics of the Theater'.

54 No special case has to be made for 'loue' or 'loue-sute' as synonyms for will, and Booth's commentary supports the equivalence of the sonnet's other nouns ('soule', 'things of great receit', 'stores account', 'treasure', 'number', 'one', 'nothing', and 'none'), pp. 469-73. Verbs also relate to lust: 'come' to climax; 'check' to its deferral; 'knows', 'proves', 'recko'ned' to forms of carnal knowing; 'fulfill' and 'fill' to orgasm; 'is admitted' and 'hold' to sexual entry. Adjectives express sexual desirables—'sweet', 'great', 'blind'—and adverbs modify the sexual act, 'so near', 'thus farre', 'with ease'.

55 On eye as vulva, see Booth, p. 521.

56The Tragedie of King Lear, The Norton Facsimile The First Folio of Shakespeare, prepared by Charlton Hinman (New York, 1968), TLN 2724.

57 Paul Ramsey notes that 221/2 per cent of all Englishmen were named Will at the end of the sixteenth century, The Fickle Glass: A Study of Shakespeare's Sonnets (New York, 1979), p. 23.

58 See Smith, esp. pp. 41-53 and Jonathan Goldberg, Sodometries: Renaissance Texts, Modern Sexualities (Berkeley, 1992), pp. 18-23.

59 'Hal's Desire, Shakespeare's Idaho'.

60The Tragedie of King Lear, TLN 1663.

61 The promiscuous dark lady is not unlike Spenser's miscegenating Acrasia ('bad mixture') who razes the estates of her noble lovers in FQ, Bk. 11, 12.

62 On the racial inflections of fair/dark and black/white in the early modern period, see Ania Loomba, Gender, Race, Renaissance Drama (Manchester and New York, 1989), pp. 42-5 and Kim Hall, 'Unacknowledged Things of Darkness', Ph.D. thesis, Univ. of Pennsylvania, 1990.

63 This paragraph owes much to Dollimore, pp. 236-40 et passim.

Source: "The Scandal of Shakespeare's Sonnets," in Shakespeare Survey: An Annual Survey of Shakespeare Studies and Production, Vol. 46, 1994, pp. 35-49.

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