Skip to comments.Odd Portrait Has Many Guessing Shakespeare Was Gay
Posted on 04/23/2002 10:14:28 AM PDT by socal_parrot
By Mike Collett-White
LONDON (Reuters) - A 400-year-old painting previously believed to be that of a woman has been found to portray the male patron and friend of William Shakespeare, its owner said on Tuesday.
"He is wearing perfectly fashionable male attire of the day, but the earring and the hair are effeminate and unusual for the 1590s," the painting's owner Alec Cobbe told Reuters.
He said that his family had assumed for centuries that the picture was of a Lady Norton.
But after discovering links between his own family and the Southamptons and a striking resemblance between the portrait and other representations of the 3rd Earl of Southampton, Cobbe was convinced that it is Shakespeare's friend and frequent host.
Scholars have long argued that Southampton was the handsome young man in his late teens to whom an early sequence of Shakespeare's sonnets was addressed.
The painting is dated to around 1590, when Shakespeare was writing early sonnets including one to the "master-mistress of my passion."
"It certainly illustrates that sonnet (number 20) very vividly. We are looking at the subject of the sonnet, I'm sure," said Cobbe.
Alastair Laing, the National Trust's adviser on art, first suggested to Cobbe that the picture was of a male.
"I was cataloguing this collection and realized that this was a young man with long hair, which one or two dandies of the time affected in this manner," he told Reuters.
He is also convinced that the picture is of Southampton, although he argued that the man was not necessarily affecting a female appearance, as a modern observer may assume.
"This is a man but he is not a cross-dresser," Laing said.
"He is not wearing lipstick -- some pigments just stand the passage of time better than others, giving this appearance. It is dangerous to assume anything about this man's character from this portrait."
British newspapers have played up the significance of the discovery (news - web sites), with the mass circulation tabloid Sun headlining its story "Shakesqueer."
But even if the discovery of the portrait is much ado about nothing, it has proved effective publicity for the painting, which is now on show at Cobbe's stately home at Hatchlands Park in southern England.
I told my dad of this when I was a teen, and he told me that was nothing at all new...he was in high school in the 1930s, and even at that time, it was hinted at that Shakespeare was gay...
So this idea has been around for most of the decades of this century, and who knows for how much further back in the past...
"But even if the discovery of the portrait is much ado about nothing, it has proved effective publicity for the painting, which is now on show at Cobbe's stately home at Hatchlands Park in southern England."
Seems to me the goatee would indicate a MAN, but those were woolier times...
Uh, that is, quite normal for that time period.
Somehow this does not bother me. It's life--like war and peace, love and hate, damnation and redemption.
Inside my wedding ring are inscribed the following:
"...even to the edge of doom."--Savage Beast
The accusation that Shakespear was gay is based on his poems to a young male friend that seem very romantic. However, his poems to his female mistress are more erotic.
Back then, male friendship was praised, because there was a strict line between the sexes and their places in life. Your best friend was a male, but sodomy was forbidden. But you had a mistress or wife not to talk politics or drink with, but to sleep with and make a family.
Many of his plays bring up cross dressing women doing men's work successfully, but in the end they marry and are happy in the female role. Sort of like Rosie the Riviter and the WAACS in World War II: Sure they could fly, work on planes, and be soldiers, but they weren't "feminists" who hated men. They could be better wives for doing this, since they did not hate men but could appreciate their men's jobs and problems.
Modern society makes male friendship into a suspicious thing, sexualizing friendship. Look at those worrying about male friendship in Lord of the Rings as being gay. It is not. And look at modern feminism that denies women have any role in life but becoming failed men.
William Shakespeare: Life of Drama
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