Bawdy and Soul
A Revaluation of Shakespeare’s Sonnets
1. Auflage, 2003
Until the middle of the 20th century non-platonic readings of Shakespeare's boy-sonnets were openly denounced as mere fantasies of homosexual would-be scholars who wanted to claim Shakespeare as one of their own. Even after these readings had gained a wider audience, the poetic strategies intimating the transition from platonic to non-platonic interpretations remained largely unexplored. This study substantiates the validity of both of these interpretations which were claimed to be mutually exclusive and explores and explains their relationship to one another. While phonological, semantic, metaphorical or logical disharmonies in individual boy-sonnets or groups of sonnets are identified as switch-blades directing the reader from platonic to sexual readings, the lady-sonnets are shown to hold the key to a full understanding of the poet's relationship to the young man. In the heterosexual context they establish the terminological and metaphorical patterns for the encoded rendering of homoerotic passion. Thus the linguistic ambiguities of the boy-sonnets are understood to reveal the wavering balance of adoration and desire which are suggested to be integral aspects of the human frame of body and mind.