To Gender or Not to Gender

July 16, 2021 by Essay Writer

“Sex is one of the constants in human experience; sexuality, one of the variables.”

Bruce Smith, Homosexual Desire in Shakespeare’s England.

Sexuality in Renaissance England was ambiguous. The current common idea or definition of “homosexual” did not exist in Renaissance England. Today, people are defined as ‘homosexual’; this becomes their identity: I am a homosexual. In Renaissance England, this type of sexual identity did not exist. One would not refer to oneself as a homosexual. According to Stephen Orgel in Impersonations: The Performance of Gender in Shakespeare’s England, the category of ‘homosexual’ did not exist as a mode of self identification or self-definition. This was an act, not an identification, a label, or a ‘life-style’ as it is viewed today. There existed no word to define oneself as ‘homosexual’. They referred to ‘sodomy’ or ‘buggery’ which were lewd sexual acts that included heterosexual divergences. This distinction between homosexual men and heterosexual men did not exist. Alan Bray states, “Outside an immediately sexual context, there was little or no social pressure for someone to define for himself what his sexuality was” (70). A definition of this sort takes sexual desire as a taking off point for personal identity. This requires that a “sexual essence” exists, which is not the case for the people of this time and place (Bruce Smith 12). In this light, in this essay, the word ‘homosexual’ will be not be used to refer to an identity, but to anyone participating in a same-sex relationship, either sexual or erotic.

In his book, Homosexuality in Renaissance England, Alan Bray, the foremost scholar in Renaissance homosexuality studies, conducts a thorough examination of the views of and practices of homosexuality in Renaissance England. Bray asserts that homosexual acts (sodomy, buggery) were prevalent in Renaissance English society. He states that homosexual relations between master and servant or between master and apprentice were common as sexual outlets for unmarried young men before they took wives. Apprentices and servants lived with their masters for many years as young single men. These young men were generally sexually mature for the years before they were married. Bray claims that unmarried apprentices and servants were encouraged to find “alternative” sexual outlets to reduce the number of illegitimate children that fell on the poor rate. This “alternative” sexual outlet often took the form of a homosexual affair with their masters. This was more socially acceptable than pre-marital heterosexual affairs because they would not produce offspring, and the relationships were likely to remain secret (Bray 47-49). Eve Sedgewick asserts that this type of relationship was never considered a threat to society, because it did not run counter to heterosexuality and marriage (qtd. in Orgel 46). Secret relations between older master/younger servant were common scenarios in a patriarchal and hierarchal home/institution (Bray 49).

Although Bray asserts that the common practice of homosexual relations was prevalent, he claims that the “common sense” view in England was that homosexual acts were an “abomination . . . punishable by death” (62). There was certainly a dichotomy between thought and practice. Laws existed forbidding sodomy and buggery. If found guilty, the punishment was hanging. However, regardless of the commonness of these homosexual relationships, there were very few reports of or indictments of sodomy or buggery on the record books (71). It seems that these relationships were rarely prosecuted unless violence was involved (50). These relations were more a matter of convenience than of homosexual lust. And, these abominable acts kept innumerable illegitimate children off the minds and the books of the government. It seems there was a strong disparity between the social beliefs about homosexuality and the actual practice of it. Sodomy was severely disapproved of, but ignored as an outlet for sexual angst that would not produce children and, therefore, disrupt the economy (an illegitimate that the government has to pay for) or the social hierarchy (a child between master and servant, or a child that forces a young man to give up his apprenticeship and marry early). Bray asserts that this disparity was not evidence of tolerance. There existed a harsh “fear and loathing” of sodomy, without justification of action felt in the society. This was not tolerance, but a “reluctance to recognize” homosexual relationships for what they were: no definitions, just a casual blindness (75-6). According to English observation, homosexuality did not exist in the Elizabethan world.

Beyond all of the anxieties of homosexuality, the people of Renaissance England had their own biology to contend with. Gender issues themselves caused great anxiety, especially to men. In his article “Fiction and Friction”, Stephen Greenblatt explains the origins of much of the gender and sexual anxieties of the time. He explicates the Renaissance idea of the ‘one-body’ theory. Greenblatt has evidence that, at this time, science believed that men and women were of one body. Women were simply colder, imperfect, inverted versions of men. More explicitly, that female genitalia were simply male genitalia turned inside out and kept inside rather than worn on the outside. There were even records of women, during feats of great exertion, turning into men by delivering their genitals to their more perfect (male) form. Greenblatt even goes so far as to assert that both men and women had fantasies (or anxieties) of turning into the opposite sex. There was no true difference between the male gender and the female gender. This theory explains much of the gender anxieties and issues of gender definition of the time. It is the essence of how simply gender boundaries break down and become ambiguous.

Gender identity, both the biology and the psychology of it, was ambiguous in Renaissance England. Sexual identity was just as indistinct. Homosexuality secretly existed, but not as an identity, and was severely disapproved of by society. However, all of these issues were generally ignored. There was little truly defining sex or gender language. The methods and means to determining or discussing gender identity were lacking, and a discourse to work out the gender issues was only just beginning to occur. There existed a need for someone to look at this issue, instead of looking away. Many of Shakespeare’s comedies formed part of this discourse. He was aware of the blindness to gender issues and homosexuality in his society, and used his plays to attempt to bring these issues to light. The gender and homosexuality ‘play’ in Twelfth Night make it an excellent example of Shakespeare’s dialogue on the general blindness and stigma associated with these issues. Shakespeare used sexual and gender ambiguity, including cross-dressing actors, cross-dressing characters, and homosexual references in Twelfth Night in order to create blurred ideas of gender and sexuality both in his play and in the minds of his audience. These blurred boundaries served as a discourse to begin working out these gender and homosexuality issues that had been swept under the collective rug of Renaissance England.

Much of Renaissance England’s ‘discussion’ about gender issues and homosexuality took place in literary contexts. Bray asserts that much of the literature of the time included unambiguous offers of male love. However, he believes that one must be careful to make the distinction between homosocial and platonic male love, and homoeroticism or homosexual male lust. For Bray, the latter is much less likely to be expressed (60-1). However, according to Gregory W. Bredbeck, Peter J. Smith, and Claude J. Cady, this is not at all the case. Literature was the only available expression of homosexual desire. Cady affirms sexuality was hidden in much of the literature of the time. Homosexual desire would be disguised in vague terms, such as those of ‘friendship’ and ‘beauty’. He offers examples from Francis Bacon, Thomas Heywood, Michelangelo, and Shakespeare. According to Peter Smith, the language of friendship and attraction were truly homoerotic. And Bredbeck states that homosexual desire could also be expressed in terms of myth (Ganymede was a very popular character name) or hidden in symbolic language. But, in all cases, this homosexual desire was only acceptable in these ‘hidden’ or implicit forms. Literature was the only safe place to exhibit homosexual desire in public.

Enter the theater. According to Michael Shapiro, one of theater’s “most potent effects is precisely the blurring of boundaries between art and life” (145). Here, the playwright has the opportunity to use fiction to represent or mirror the anxieties of the ‘real’ world. Taboo subjects can be brought out into the open in a ‘safe’ forum. And, this gender/sexuality blurring meaning will not be lost in the playing of it. In theater, there is collaboration between the playwright and the audience in the creation of meaning (Bruce Smith 17). There is a sense of play and creation between the words and the actors, and between the actors and the audience. It becomes safe to publicly discuss sex and gender implicitly and even somewhat explicitly.

Literary discourse (such as the discourse of theater) often “mediates between the official ideal and the quotidian real” (Bruce Smith 22). As previously stated, the “official ideal” was that homosexuality was abominable and gender definition did not exist. In practice, this was not necessarily the case. Theater offered the opportunity to critique the norm of heterosexuality and lack of gender identity. This is especially true in England, where women were not allowed on the stage, so their parts were played by boys. This gave theater the ability to dramatize the “socially constructed basis of a sexuality that is determined by gender identity” (Charles 122). Theater worked with the reality that sex and gender were socially constructed ideas. Bruce Smith states, “Sex may be rooted in instinct, but that instinct is mediated and transformed by human rationality” (4). Whatever our Nature may be, our societal bounds keep it within certain limits. The theater staple of the boy actor playing a girl character disguised again as a boy accentuated this constructedness of gender in society (Charles 124). The boy constructs himself in the fashion of a girl constructing herself in the fashion of a boy. Theater emphasized the self-fashioning of gender and disrupted the paradigms of sexuality (122).

Shakespeare was especially adept at this form of social criticism. He was aware of the social reality of arbitrary gender roles based on arbitrary definitions of gender. He was aware of the stigma haunting the socially ignored practice of homosexual relationships. He was aware of the sex and gender problems in his world and said something about it. Shakespeare works with this idea of gender as a social construct. His characters often perceive their ‘selves’ through costume/clothes (evidence of the effects of the sumptuary laws?) and other social constructs. Shakespeare’s use of disguise and costume often defined his characters.

Laws and medicine (legal and governmental documents) can only address homosexual acts and policy. More importantly in social history, theater can address homosexual desire (Bruce Smith 17). Shakespeare plays with gender and sex in many of his comedies to do just that: to show sexual desire, both heterosexual and homosexual, and to play with it. Shakespeare “refuses to dissolve the difference between the sex of the boy actor and that of the heroine he plays” (Rackin 55). He uses self-referential language and jokes to emphasize the gender ambiguity. He then uses this sexual ambiguity to complicate his plots, and then again to resolve his plots. This is Shakespeare’s sense of ‘play’. He emphasizes that his boy-heroines are beautiful to both women and men. He counts on the gender ambiguity he produces. Shakespeare makes jokes to “expose the boy beneath the gown” (Peter Smith 202). Shakespeare even goes so far as to refuse to resolve these ambiguities in the end of the play; he leaves a “necessary ambivalence” surrounding the ends of many of these comedies (Rackin 61). He makes a conscious and purposeful examination of gender definition. He plays with sexual ambiguity to show a reversal of society, blurring gender definitions and making people think.

Shakespeare’s most mature comedy, Twelfth Night, is an excellent example of his use of ‘play’ to accentuate and blur gender and sex issues. Here, Shakespeare presents homoeroticism in the shadow of the ‘natural bias’ of heterosexual marriage (Charles 121). He has a cast of characters who fight to realize their identities, most importantly, their sexual and gender identities.

Twelfth Night is has strong identity discovery themes. Most of the characters are in the midst of discovering their own identities and defining identity in general:

Conceal me what I am (1.2.53)

Non facit monachum (the hood makes not the monk) (1.5.53-4)

What kind o’ man is he? (1.5.152)

What manner of man? (1.5.154)

The honorable lady of the house, which is she? (1.5.169)

I am not that I play (1.5.185)

If I do not usurp myself I am (1.5.186-7)

What are you? What would you? (1.5.219)

What I am and what I would, are as secret as maidenhead (1.5.219)

I see you what you are (1.5.254)

I am a gentleman (1.5.283)

I am the man (2.2.24)

I am all the daughters of my father’s house and all the brothers too (2.4.120-1)

Olivia: That you do think you are not what you are

Viola: Then think you right

Olivia: If I think so, I think the same of you

Viola: Then think you right, I am not what I am

Olivia: I would you were as I would have you be (3.1.140-4)

There is no argument that identity is an issue in Twelfth Night. Shakespeare uses language to example this plainly. Feste, the wise fool, delivers the essential line by telling us (in Latin, of course) that the hood makes not the monk. Beware. In this unreal world of Illyria, nothing is what it seems. The disguised female character Viola tells Olivia that she is a “gentleman”, and then realizes later the significance of that fact as she tells herself, “I am the man” (2.2.24). Later, Viola grows to see her gender duality when she states, “I am all the daughters of my father’s house and all the brothers too” (2.4.120-1). There is a growing sense of Viola attempting to know her true identity. Viola is not the only character in this pursuit. Most of the characters make some attempt to define identity in general or to discover their own identities. “I am not what I am” (3.1.143) is a significant theme in this play. Shakespeare turns everything his audience thinks they know upside down in order to shake up the status quo and deliver a search for identity.

Clearly, identity and the search to define it are important parts of this play. But further, the importance of gender identity is a key element. For example, Viola is thrown into a strange land where she does not know how to act or who to be. She lacks identity, including gender identity. She says to the sea captain, “Thou shall present me as an eunuch to him” (1.2.56). She then disguises herself as a young man and takes on a false personage and gender. This is the epitome of a lack of gender identity.

Shakespeare inspects the ‘fiction’ of gender identity. As the clown Feste states, “Nothing that is so is so” (4.1.8). Obviously, this is most apparent in that the woman Viola is disguised as a man. But take this the next step further. The audience is not simply looking at the woman Viola disguised as Cesario, but at the boy actor playing the woman Viola disguised as the boy Cesario. The gender identity issue is three layers deep and self-referential throughout the play. Viola often refers to her threefold ambiguous gender, even going so far as to state: I am not that I play (1.5.185, italics mine). In fact, according to Michael Shapiro, rather than fusing the male actor/female character/male disguise into one, the character of Viola keeps different aspects of these identities separate (144). A talented boy actor kept the assertiveness of the male disguise separate from the shyness and femininity of the character. Olivia gives Cesario attention because he was “saucy” and Orsino takes notice of Cesario because of ‘his’ feminine beauty (Shapiro 158). Even the other characters attempt to keep the gender boundaries straight. This is significant, being that this is meant to be just one person, not three. The one person reflects the character traits common to and signified by each gender. Hence, gender ambiguity. The boy actors are not just playing women or playing men, they are interpreting the way a woman reacts to playing a man, which is much more difficult. This type of distinction shows a great deal of understanding of what it is to be female and what it is to be male and what it is to be ambiguously both. The characters (and likely much of the audience) attempted to keep these gender descriptors separate within the multiple layers of ambiguity. As perhaps is apparent in the discussion of the one-sex body, this culture feared the ‘fluidity’ of gender, and therefore would have had a difficult time accepting the blurred boundaries Shakespeare presented (Charles 124).

Shakespeare then takes these blurred gender boundaries to the next level. The boy-heroine in disguise, Viola/Cesario, attracts members of both sexes. Shakespeare uses this ambiguous character to ‘play’ with, not just ideas of gender, but ideas of homoeroticism, or homosexual desire. Orsino accepts Cesario as his servant. For some reason (that will be discovered in time) Orsino favors Cesario. After only three days, Orsino make the claim to Cesario: Thou know’st no less but all: I have unclasp’d/To thee the book even of my secret soul (1.4.13-15). Orsino is a mellow-dramatic, love sick character, but even for him, this language is laced with something more than platonic friendship. Just a few lines later, Orsino examines Cesario and states: Diana’s lip/Is not more smooth and rubious: thy small pipe/Is as the maiden’s organ, shrill and sound,/And all is semblative a woman’s part (1.4.31-4). Clearly, Orsino and Cesario have an erotic attraction to begin with. This is what makes his later attraction to Viola possible. It was erotic to begin with, so it is erotic after the revelation. The only thing that changes is the newfound possibility for marriage (Piquigney 182-3). The homoerotic relationship is still there to be grappled with. Orsino cannot fathom the attraction due to Cesario’s “man” status, but it is obvious that the attraction between master and servant exists. Recall that this is the ‘abominable’ and ignored homosexual relationship prevalent in Renaissance society. Shakespeare offers a fictional, comedic, and blurred version of the hidden real world.

Most critics focus mainly on the male issue of homoeroticism, but Shakespeare focuses equally on female homoeroticism. Viola/Cesario woos Olivia in the name of Orsino. Apparently, Viola knows too well what a woman wants, and woos too successfully. Olivia falls in love with Viola/Cesario. Nearly as much time is spent dealing with this homoerotic relationship as is spent with the male homoerotic liaison. The language of the wooing scenes is some of the most beautiful poetic language. Viola’s speech:

Make me a willow cabin at your gate,

And call upon my soul within the house;

Write loyal cantons of contemned love,

And sing them loud even in the dead of night; (1.5.271-4)

Is one of the most well know love speeches of the time. And it was from one female to another. Add in the 3rd layer, and it is from one cross-dressing boy to another. Shakespeare’s sense of sex/gender ‘play’ is unending. In fact, juxtaposing the boy-heroine in disguise with a non-disguised boy-heroine probably heightened the self-referential effect. It would focus attention to the theatrical representations of anxieties of gender role definitions and controversies (Shapiro 52). The audience would have been keenly aware of the gender bending and sexual deconstruction taking place in front of their eyes.

What Viola ends up with, though, is nothing. For the majority of the play, her lack of gender binds her. Orsino cannot consciously comprehend his attraction to Cesario because of ‘his’ apparent gender. Olivia is denied her attraction to Cesario because of ‘his’ actual gender. Viola is trapped by her ungendered situation and cannot act. Viola senses the limitations of her ungendered position and views her disguise as “wickedness” (Rackin 61). Viola’s anxieties about her gender/sex situation allow the audience to examine their own anxieties about gender and sexual definition.

While this would seem like plenty enough layers of gender/sex issues for one play, Shakespeare gives us another. According to Joseph Piquigney, Antonio and Sebastian clearly have an explicit homosexual relationship. They speak impassionedly to one another. Their speech is not that of male friends, but that of lovers. Antonio says to Sebastian, “If you will not murder me for my love, let me be your servant” (2.1.34), and “I do adore thee so,/That danger shall seem sport, and I will go” (2.1.46-7), and “I could not stay behind you: my desire,/ More sharp than filed steel, did spur me forth” (3.3.4-5). These are not examples of friendly charity, but that of passionate sacrifice for one you love. Sebastian’s most passionate speech is not to Olivia, but to Antonio at their ‘reunion’. Sebastian refers to Olivia as “sweetness”, but then turns to Antonio and proclaims, “Antonio! Oh my dear Antonio,/How have the hours racked and tortur’d me,/Since I have lost thee!” (5.1.216-18 italics mine).

This type of impassioned speech clearly shows a homoerotic desire between the older and younger male, not hidden in friendly language or language of beauty, but explicitly stated, for all the world to see. Well, perhaps not all the world, not at first. Sebastian reveals that he used a pseudonym for the three months he spent with Antonio. The reason for this? Perhaps anonymity and saving the honor of his family name while in a drawn out homosexual liaison? Or, another interesting societal critique via Shakespeare? Whatever the reason, it is plain that Antonio and Sebastian have an emotional and perhaps sexual love, again, mimicking the master/apprentice relationships so prevalent in this society. They reinforce the idea that men fall in love and reinforce the homosexual games of Orsino and Viola/Cesario (Orgel 51).

Shakespeare takes every advantage in this play to blur the gender and sex boundaries. Viola is an illusion of gender: neither female nor male. She cannot act on her love for Orsino or on Olivia’s love for her. As the ‘straight’ brother to Viola, Sebastian provides a bit of a sense of reality in gender. As a solution, he takes the male gender from Viola (to a point) and allows her to split the androgyny. However, none of these ‘solutions’ are complete. The reason there are no wedding ceremonies at the end is to leave open the questions of gender identity and homoeroticism. Viola is still Cesario. Even after the revelation, Viola remains in disguise and Orsino continues to call her “boy” and “Cesario” (5.1.265). Antonio seems left out, but without the ceremonies, he is not officially left out. The door is left open for him to not be left out at all, ever.

The ‘natural bias’ dictates the formal coupling, but as there are no weddings, homoeroticism is never closed out. There is a lack of actual closure to the ending. Everything still seems ambiguous, as though no questions were actually answered. The ending does not give the impression that it actually honors the hastily made heterosexual unions. According to Valerie Traub, “Twelfth Night’s conclusion seems only ambivalently invested in the ‘natural’ heterosexuality it imposes” (Qtd. in Charles 139). We are reminded that while the characters all seem satisfied in the ‘natural’ solution, without the androgyny, none of the matches would have been possible.

Some critics do not subscribe to this type of gender bending interpretation of Twelfth Night. In his article, “Androgyny Seen Through Shakespeare’s Disguise,” Robert Kimbrough states that, in fact, Shakespeare did not ‘play’ with the boy actor/female character dichotomy. He believes that theater is where one checks one’s “literal mindedness at the door and willingly believe[s] anything [one is] asked to believe” (17). Kimbrough states that we do Shakespeare a “disservice” to not believe his women as women and miss the full effect and significance of the language. He agrees that Shakespeare ‘plays’ with the girl into boy androgyny, but does not believe the 3rd layer should be in play. Kimbrough states that this androgyny becomes the ability to incorporate all of the gender defining elements into one being without characterizing some as inherently feminine or male (19). However, he cannot allow that this androgyny and effect would be made stronger by acknowledging that the women in disguise were being played by boys.

The English were keenly aware of this. They knew that on the continent, women played women’s role’s in the theater. The Puritans constantly worked to close the theaters down to clean the city of cross-dressing. The audience would have had a great awareness of the fact that the female characters were actually boys underneath the dresses. There is no reason to believe that they could not find humor in self-referential identity and gender messages or a 3rd level of meaning behind layered speech. In the epilogue of As You Like It, the boy-heroine Rosalind speaks to the audience: “It is not the fashion to see a lady in the epilogue” (self-referencing the character Rosalind) (5.4.198) and then later: “If I were a woman, I would kiss as many of you as had beards that pleased me” (self-referencing the boy actor under the dress) (5.4.214-16 italics mine). It is clear that Shakespeare counted on his audiences catching the double and triple meanings apparent with the knowledge and awareness that, under the dresses, they were all boy.

Another critic, Lorna Hutson, goes so far as to state that gender readings are of “limited value” in Shakespeare’s plays. Hutson claims that too much recent thought has been focused on ‘body-criticism’ when, to Shakespeare’s audience, this would have all been incidental. The message that this audience would have taken from Twelfth Night is one of social advancement, gentility, education, and civility. She claims that this was an educated discourse serving as a lesson in civility. Hutson argues that today we are distracted by the gender and identity issues, but that Shakespeare actually intended a comedy of social advancement and economic and social laws. This seems unlikely. Refer back to the discussion on identity.

There are simply too many references to identity search and definition for this to be incidental. The play on gender and homoeroticism anxieties would not have been lost on a society so disjointed in their sexual thoughts and practices. Shakespeare was starting an educated discourse, but it was not about social advancement. The discourse was intended to blur the boundaries of the gender and sex issues and provoke thought through laughter.

Shakespeare was successful in establishing this discourse. The androgyny that Viola represents is a celebration of the transcendence of gender bounds of the human condition. Her androgyny is presented as a form of prelapsarian perfection (Rackin 54). Both Orsino and Olivia are a manner of ridiculous suitors. But, Viola/Cesario, as androgynous, is not ridiculous, but very successful. Viola/Cesario collapses the “polarities” heterosexuality is based on by becoming an androgynous/ambiguous object of desire that distorts the distinction between homo- and hetero-erotic attraction (Charles 128). Twelfth Night does not represent a difference between men and women, but an identity between them. Renaissance theater was a moment where gender definitions were open for interpretation and were played with, both physically and psychologically. No one handled this gender-bending ‘play’ with more expertise than Shakespeare in “Twelfth Night”.

Works Cited

Bray, Alan. Homosexuality in Renaissance England. New York: Columbia UP, 1982.

Bredbeck, Gregory W. “Tradition and the Individual Sodomite: Barnfield, Shakespeare, and Subjective Desire.” Homosexuality in Renaissance and Enlightenment England: Literary Representations in Historical Context. Ed. Claude J. Summers. New York: Haworth Press, 1992. 41-68.

Cady, Claude J. “‘Masculine Love,’ Renaissance Writing, and the ‘New Invention’ of Homosexuality.” Homosexuality in Renaissance and Enlightenment England: Literary Representations in Historical Context. Ed. Claude J. Summers. New York: Haworth Press, 1992. 9-40.

Charles, Casey. “Gender Trouble in Twelfth Night.” Theatre Journal 49:2 (1997) 121-41.

Hutson, Lorna. “On Not Being Deceived: Rhetoric and the Body in Twelfth Night.” Shakespeare and Gender. Eds. Stephen Orgel and Sean Keilen. New York: Garland, 1999. pgs 148-182.

Kimbrough, Robert. “Androgyny Seen Through Shakespeare’s Disguise.” Shakespeare Quarterly 33:1 (Spring 1982) 17-33.

Orgel, Stephen. Impersonations: The Performance of Gender in Shakespeare’s England. New York: Cambridge UP, 1996.

Piquigney, Joseph. “The Two Antonios and Same-Sex Love in Twelfth Night and The Merchant of Venice.” Shakespeare and Gender: A History, Eds. Deborah E. Barker and Ivo Kamps. New York: Verso, 1995.

Rackin, Phyllis. “Androgyny, Mimesis, and the Marriage of the Boy Heroine on the English Renaissance Stage.” Shakespeare and Gender. Eds. Stephen Orgel and Sean Keilen. New York: Garland, 1999. pgs 53-66.

Shakespeare, William. Twelfth Night. Eds. J.M. Lothian and T.W. Craik. The Arden Edition of the Works of William Shakespeare. New York: Routledge, 1975.

Shapiro, Michael. Gender in Play on the Shakespearean Stage: Boy Heroines and Female Pages. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1994.

Smith, Bruce R. Homosexual Desire in Shakespeare’s England. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1991.

Smith, Peter J. Social Shakespeare. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1995. Chapter 8.

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