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Shakespeare, Sex, and Love by Stanley (Honorary President, The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust) Wells


Shakespeare, Sex, and Love by Stanley (Honorary President, The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust) Wells

How does Shakespeare's treatment of human sexuality relate to the sexual conventions and language of his times? Pre-eminent Shakespearean critic Stanley Wells draws on historical and anecdotal sources to present an illuminating account of sexual behaviour in Shakespeare's time, particularly in Stratford-upon-Avon and London. He demonstrates what we know or can deduce of the sex lives of Shakespeare and members of his family. He also provides a fascinating account of depictions of sexuality in the poetry of the period and suggests that at the time Shakespeare was writing most of his non-dramatic verse a group of poets catered especially for readers with homoerotic tastes. The second part of Shakespeare, Sex, and Love focuses on the variety of ways in which Shakespeare treats sexuality in his plays and at how he relates sexuality to love. Wells shows that Shakespeare's attitude to sex developed over the course of his writing career, and devotes whole chapters to 'The Fun of Sex' - to how he raises laughter out of the matter of sex in both the language and the plotting of some of his comedies; portrayals of sexual desire; to Romeo and Juliet as the play in which Shakespeare focuses most centrally on issues relating to sex, love, and the relationship between them; to sexual jealousy, traced through four major plays; 'Sexual Experience'; and 'Whores and Saints'. A final chapter, 'Just Good Friends' examines Shakespeare's rendering of same-gender relationships.


Wells is an expert modern guide in terms of literary criticism and biography. * The Times * Deeply versed in the period, urbane and unflappable in tone, refreshingly free of ideological agendas. * Charles Nicholl, Financial Times * This is not a long book, but it draws on Well's decades of close-focus research as a Shakespeare scholar and editor. * Charles Nicholl, Financial Times * He is an expert and highly readable guide to the highways and byways of Shakespearean sexuality. * Charles Nicholl, Financial Times * [He] captures a great deal of the diversity and freshness of Shakespeare's writing. * John Stubbs, Literary Review, * Well-paced and informative book. * John Stubbs, Literary Review * He treads a precise and delicate path through Shakespeare's works * Rob Maslen,TLS * This eloquent, humane and balanced book wears its erudition lightly. * Times Literary Supplement * Advance Praise: 'From bawdy and bed-tricks to same-sex love and the pangs of sexual jealousy, Shakespeare, Sex, and Love offers a magisterial account-by the leading Shakespeare authority of our day-of the subject at the very heart of the plays and poems. Its also a terrific read. * James Shapiro, author of 1599 * Concise and elegantly written book. * Simon Callow, The Guardian * Well's subtly and systematically illuminates Shakespeare's acknowledgement of the glory and horror of what it is to be fully human. * Simon Callow, The Guardian * This eloquent, humane and balanced book wears its erudition lightly. In doing so it rescues its subject from the overbearing weight of cultural, political and theoretical baggage with which it has often been loaded in the past few decades. * Rob Maslen, TLS *

About the Author

Stanley Wells is Honorary President of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Emeritus Professor of Shakespeare Studies of the University of Birmingham, and Honorary Emeritus Governor of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. He has an extensive record of publications, mostly concerned with Shakespeare and his contemporaries.

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Book Info

Publication date

9th February 2012


Stanley (Honorary President, The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust) Wells

More books by Stanley (Honorary President, The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust) Wells
Author 'Like for Like'


Oxford University Press


304 pages


Shakespeare plays
Literary studies: c 1500 to c 1800

Early modern history: c 1450/1500 to c 1700



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