New research out of the United Kingdom has come to a provocative and questionably accurate conclusion: William Shakespeare, the greatest writer of the English language (or, for that matter, any language), was a bisexual man.
Sir Stanley Wells and Dr. Paul Edmonson, two UK-based Shakespeare scholars, came to the conclusion after a thorough analysis of Shakespeare’s sonnets. Of 182 sonnets, the pair concluded that 10 were written for women, while at least 27 were written for men. The duo arranged the sonnets in a likely chronological order based on phrases mirrored in Shakespeare’s plays. As they did so, a pattern began to emerge.
“The language of sexuality in some of the sonnets, which are definitely addressed to a male subject, leaves us in no doubt that Shakespeare was bisexual,” Edmondson told UK newspaper The Telegraph. “It’s become fashionable since the mid-1980s to think of Shakespeare as gay. But he was married and had children. Some of these sonnets are addressed to a female and others to a male. To reclaim the term bisexual seems to be quite an original thing to be doing.”
Edmonson and Wells also concluded that at least one sonnet makes reference to Shakespeare in a three-way relationship.
“Sonnet 40 begins angrily: ‘Take all my loves, my love, yea, take them all’ and includes the line: ‘Then if for my love thou my love receivest’, implying that his love has been betrayed,” Wells noted. “In Sonnet 41 Shakespeare – in spite of the betrayal – admires the beauty of both his male and his female lover: ‘Hers, by thy beauty tempting her to thee,/ Thine, by thy beauty being false to me.’”
As Wells and Edmonson noted, Shakespeare had a long marriage to Anne Hathaway, a woman eight years his senior. Speculation about the playwright’s sexuality is actually nothing new. In 1640, a printing of his sonnets changed most of the male pronouns to female to obscure any reference to potential homosexuality. Debate reignited in 1780 with the publication of the original texts which retained the references to same-sex love. Noted authors since, including Oscar Wilde and Robert Browning, have speculated that Shakespeare harbored same-sex attractions.