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+ The Reason for the Alias - Oxford's Bisexuality and Elizabethan Theater.

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1 + The Reason for the Alias - Oxford's Bisexuality and Elizabethan Theater

2 + Shake-speare’s Sexuality & The Pseudonym This presentation, based my collaboration with John Hamill on a forthcoming book, will explore the evidence for Edward de Vere's bisexuality as it relates to the pseudonym "Shakespeare." The presentation also explores the history of Elizabethan and late twentieth-century theater in the context of social mores about gender identity and sexuality in each time period.

3 + What’s in a name? Many gay and bisexual writers have used pseudonyms to protect their identities, including several prominent poets and playwrights. The use of pen names by writers including George Sand and Tennessee Williams will be reviewed to gain new insight into the motivation of the author of Shakespeare's works in adopting the name, as well as the possible motives of his heirs in preserving the alias.

4 + Writing as Impersonation In Nom de Plume, Carmela Ciuraru writes “To a certain extent, all writing involves impersonation – the act of summoning an impersonal ‘I’ to create the speaker of a poem or the characters in a novel.” She quotes French journalist Francoise Nourissier, who contends that a nom-de-plume provides a space in which “obstacles fall away, and one’s reserve dissipates.” Ciuraru concludes, “The erasure of a primary name can reveal what appears to be a truer, better, more authentic self. Or it can attain the opposite, by allowing a writer to take flight from a self that is ‘true’ yet shameful or despised. “

5 + The Talented Ms. Morgan Patricia Highsmith is most famous for her "Talented Mister Ripley" novels, but what many people don't know is that in 1952, she wrote a novel called "The Price of Salt." Published under the name "Carol Morgan," it was not her usual material. Highsmith--who was almost pathologically secretive, even in her personal life--felt that she could not publish a novel that depicted fulfilling lesbian love under her own name. For one thing, Highsmith worried about what her 84-year-old grandmother would think; and for another, she hated labels and didn't want to ruin her reputation by being marked as a "lesbian writer." It wasn't until the 1990 UK edition that Highsmith wrote an afterword to the book, admitting her authorship.

6 + The Talented Ms. Morgan Patricia Highsmith is most famous for her "Talented Mister Ripley" novels, but what many people don't know is that in 1952, she wrote a novel called "The Price of Salt." Published under the name "Carol Morgan," it was not her usual material. Highsmith--who was almost pathologically secretive, even in her personal life--felt that she could not publish a novel that depicted fulfilling lesbian love under her own name. For one thing, Highsmith worried about what her 84-year-old grandmother would think; and for another, she hated labels and didn't want to ruin her reputation by being marked as a "lesbian writer." It wasn't until the 1990 UK edition that Highsmith wrote an afterword to the book, admitting her authorship.

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8 + Monsieur Sand Born in Paris in 1804, Aurore Dupin would grow up to become one of the greatest rebels in literary history. She loved stories and began writing at the young age of 8. Her grandmother was so concerned about her rebellious and unladylike behavior that she sent her to a convent. By the age of 19, she was married (unhappily) and pregnant with her first child, but knew that a conventional life was not for her. She had affairs with both men and women, and the young Parisian writer Jules Sandeau would provide part of her nom de plume: George Sand.

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10 + Clothes Make the Woman Not only did Sand violate decorum with her bold proclamations--once suggesting that monogamy was unnatural and abnormal--but she smoked cigars and walked the streets of Paris in an ankle-length military coat, a cravat, a waistcoat, and men's boots (sometimes wearing a hat and tie as well). "My clothing made me fearless," she said. Nothing made her happier than when strangers would call her "monsieur." Today she is remembered more for her transgressive lifestyle than for her books, but she nonetheless inspired countless women. "What a brave man she was," Turgenev once said of her, "and what a good woman."

11 + The Kindness of Strangers “He was born Thomas Lanier Williams in 1911 in Columbus Missouri. He didn’t become Tennessee until he was twenty- seven, a name he chose for himself when he applied for a grant from the famous Group Theater. “He changed more than just his name in age in “Tom” had been a shy, outwardly conventional fellow, a frat man in college, a regular guy at the shoe factory where he briefly worked. The stories and plays he produced were fairly conventional, too, and he pretended to be conventional sexually, yet he was a virgin with both genders.

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13 + The Rebellious Puritan “Then he moved to New Orleans…and found himself living contentedly among prostitutes, gamblers, drug addicts and homosexuals. “He went to bed with his first man, feel in love with a friend, discovered alcohol, went to bed with another man, and another, and soon learned that he was happiest when he had sex every night. “He later described himself as a “rebellious puritan” but the rebellion was never complete. The conforming, conventional “Tom” remained hidden inside “Tennessee” to the end of his life.”

14 + Ambivalence & Autobiography Williams never wrote direct autobiography – he wrote about feelings and famously said that there were bits of him in all of his characters. But his first two successful plays, The Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire, both hint at the homosexuality of the main characters. Tennessee was writing during a period of American history when it was dangerous to be “out” both on stage and off.

15 + Three Players of a Summer Game Williams’ mixed feelings about his own sexuality are most strikingly rendered in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in the character of Brick. Several reviewers wondered about Brick’s sexuality, and one, Walter Kerr, implied that the accusation that the character was gay was true. Tennessee went into a panic – actually adding a long stage direction to try and explain Brick’s sexuality. The 1927 New York City statute known as “Wales Padlock Law” stated that “a theater found guilty of showing an immoral play – which included any presentation of homosexuality, good or bad – could be shut down for a year.”

16 + Double Standards on Broadway The law was used to shut down Dorothy Baker’s Trio in 1945, but Danny Kay starred as a flamboyant fashion photographer in Lady in the Dark in 1944, and John Houston staged Sartre’s No Exit with its predatory lesbian in One devise used by playwrights in the 1950s to circumvent the law was to write about a character accused of being homosexual, as in Robert Anderson’s Tea and Sympathy, Arthur Miller’s The View from the Bridge, and Lillian Hellman’s The Children’s Hour.

17 + The Great Homosexual Theater Scare On November 6, 1961, Tennessee Williams did an interview for the Sunday New York Times about his newest play then in rehearsals, Night of the Iguana. Next to the interview was a “think piece” by the new drama critic Harold Taubman, entitled “Not What it Seems.” It began, “It is time to speak openly and candidly about the increasing incident and influence of homosexuality on New York stages.”

18 + Not What it Seems Fearing that there were too many gay writers who wrote about only about gay men disguised as straight men and women, he warned that “Characters represent something different from what they purport to be.” Taubman concludes, “It’s no wonder they seem sicker than necessary.” Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee opened on Broadway less than a year later in October Taubman praised the play and called the writer “a major figure of our stage.”

19 + Who’s Afraid of Edward Albee? Reviewers compared the play to the works of Eugene O’Neil. Tennessee Williams attended the opening night performance. Virginia Woolf ran for 2 years and won the Tony Award and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for best play in In January 1966, Stanley Kauffmann, lead drama critic for the Times, wrote his now famous article, “Homosexual Drama and Its Disguises,” an attack on the three leading playwrights of the day, Albee, Williams, and William Inge, author of Bus Stop and Picnic.

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21 + More Drama “The principal charge against homosexual dramatists is well known. Because three of the most successful playwrights of the last twenty years are (reputed) homosexuals, and because their plays often treat of women and marriage, therefore, it is said, postwar American drama presents a badly distorted picture of American women, marriage, and society in general.” “We have all had much more than enough of the materials presented by these three writers in question: the viciousness toward women, the lurid violence that seems a sublimation of social hatreds, the transvestite sexual exhibitionism that has the same sneering exploitation of its audience that every club stripper has behind her smile.”

22 + These People… “Homosexuals with writing ability are likely to go on being drawn to the theater. It is quite the logical consequence of the defiant and/or protective histrionism they must employ in their daily lives… But how can we blame these people? Conventions and Puritanism have in the Western world have forced them to wear masks for generations, to hate themselves and thus to hate those that have made them hate themselves. Now that they have a certain freedom, they vent their feelings in camouflaged forms.”

23 + Group Think Time Magazine printed an essay that same week titled “The Homosexual in America:” “Great artists so often cited as evidence of the homosexual’s creativity – the Leonardos and Michelangelos – are probably the exceptions of genius. For the most part…homosexuals are failed artists and their special creative gift a myth.” Both Albee and Williams responded to the attacks on their work: Albee said he most certainly was not not writing about two male couples, but that, ‘There’s not much difference between gay and straight couples in their fights.” And Tennessee declared, “If I am writing a female character, goddammit, I’m going to write a female character, not a drag queen. If I want to write a drag queen, I’ll write a drag queen.”

24 + Theater as a subversive act The reputation of Elizabethan theater in particular, based on the purported sexual behavior of actors and audience members, supports the argument that Oxford’s sexuality was a primary reason for the pseudonym. In his article Carnival and the Institutions of Theater in Elizabethan England, Michael Bristol argues that the participatory nature of Carnival and its parody of established social order finds it way onto the stage in Shakespeare’s day. “The Elizabethan theater is an institution that is, in the first instance, a creation of the plebeian culture of the Renaissance…and institutionalized and professionalized form of Carnival.”

25 + Elizabethan Theatre “The festive liberty of physical involvement in the street pageantry of Carnival transforms and deconstructs the ‘truth already established’ by official ideology. The chaotic disarray produced by this arrangement is symbolically subversive of harmonious order; it is also pragmatically threatening and potentially mutinous.” Bristol quotes Mikhail Bahktin on “the synthesis that results from carnivalization as the incorporation into traditional literary language of ‘extraliterary heteroglossia.’” “The structures of verbal art that result from this saturation with the informal language and expressions of the everyday life of the public squares and marketplaces acknowledge the struggle between variant forms of language, as between the communities they represent.”

26 + Carnival as Parody & Travesty Mikhail Bakhtin concludes that these structures “become dialogized, permeated with laughter, irony, humor, elements of self-parody, and.. most important.,. [Carnival] inserts into these structures an indeterminacy, a certain semantic open-endedness, a living contact with unfinished, still- evolving contemporary reality.” Michael Bristol writes “Central to the Carnival experience is a particular use of symbols, costumes, and masks, in which the ordinary relationship between signifier and signified is disrupted and conventional meaning is parodied. Parody and travesty, the rude, foolish, sometimes abusive mimicry of everyday categories, create the topsy-turvy world of carnivalesque misrule.”

27 + Role Playing Bristol reminds us that aristocratic and court entertainments were based on allegory and idealized versions of the established social hierarchy. Carnival, in contrast, “allows the participants to put on new social roles, to borrow the clothing and the identity of someone else, and to adopt the language and manners – even the social position – of another.” “Misrule is much more than a disruptive negation of the established ideological forms…it substitutes participation for detached observation.”

28 + Theater as Carnival “Disguise, mistaken identity, acting for another, all of which are defining characteristics of Carnival as well as of the actor’s profession, enter in most of not all the stories in the dramatic texts themselves. The most complex focus of identity switching is in the multiple transvestitism of boy actors portraying characters like Rosalind or Viola. Gender switching. Like the various inversions of social status, [this] undermines closed and finished individuality, and like the experience of Carnival itself, it reinserts the individual into a continuous and dynamic social process.”

29 + Shakespeare & Identity Bakhtin has suggested that in Shakespeare’s drama we are shown “the possibility of a complete exit from the present order of life.” “This pathos of radical changes and renewals is the essence of Shakespeare’s world consciousness.” Bristol concludes that “the theatre, like Carnival itself, is a fundamentally subversive process.”

30 + Boy Actors in Elizabethan Theater In his article “When I Acted Young Antonius: Boy Actors and the Erotics of Jonsonian Theater,” Richmond Barbour provides a detailed analysis of sexuality and Elizabethan Theater. “The theaters of early modern London were recognized by both patrons and opponents to be houses of erotic display, of compelling allurements on stage and off.” “The erotic economy of what was in effect a male transvestite theater challenges the modern assumption that sexuality is normatively or “naturally” hetero and genital and optimally monogamous.”

31 + The effeminizing influences of theater “Recent studies of antitheatricalism and gender report that Jacobean culture held deep anxieties about the effeminizing influences of theater.” “While disguise promotes transgression, role playing also diffuses eroticism, elaborates foreplay, and may replace coition.” “Playhouses, it was feared, fostered social incoherence because they induced and exploited prolific lusts of transformation…boy players embodied the attractions of metamorphosis and minimized its threats – for both men and women.”

32 + Theater as Prostitution The boys suspended the audience’s defensiveness against the gender confusion they performed, and were far less threatening than assertive women. In his article “Base Trade: Theater as Prostitution,” Joseph Lenz explores the basis for the metaphor. He notes the proximity to brothels and the presence of prostitutes, male and female, on stage and off. Stephen Gosson wrote in 1579, “Poets in theater wound the conscience, they arrange comforts of melody, to tickle the ear; costly apparel, to flatter the sight; effeminate gesture, to ravish the sense; and wanton speech, to whet desire to inordinate lust.”

33 + Lewd and Lascivious The theaters and brothels were both outside the city limits, in the Liberties, where the threat of coming into contact with disease, then associated with leprosy and now attributed to plague and syphilis, was very real. The analogy of patrons and audiences becoming “infected” with the “lascivious matters” and “lewd demeanors” was the subject of the Lord Mayor’s several appeals to Lord Burghley in the 1590s. Lenz states that “Without a doubt, the London theater and the plays performed in them were populated by whores and their bawds, in fiction and in fact.”

34 + All the world’s a brothel In 1584/85 Philip Henslowe acquired the lease for the Little Rose, an “inn” with extensive grounds in Southwark, one of the original “Bankside stewes” licensed by Henry II in In 1597 Henslowe acquired the Unicorn, another reputed brothel. For Gossen, the spectacle of a player strutting his stuff on the stage was virtually the same as a prostitute strutting hers or his upon the street: both lure citizens and whet appetites. Even the university stage, far removed from the Bankside stews, was seen as a place where crossdressed actors adorned with silk and feathers “doe it with lewde intent of committing whoredome, beguiling and deceiving.”

35 + Likely Lads In Shakespeare Unbound, Rene Weis describes Shakespeare’s early days in Shoreditch, where “theaters and ‘stews’ – brothels - stood cheek by jowl,” and supposes that Shakespeare would have met Marlowe living in this neighborhood. He states unequivocally, “There is little doubt of Marlowe’s homosexuality,” then continues, “it is this same, homosexual, brilliant, dangerous Kit Marlowe whom Shakespeare…came to admire and perhaps even love, if the glowing tribute he wrote seven years after Marlowe’s death can be trusted.” “Marlowe and Shakespeare must have been aware of each other, they both wrote for The Strange Men and Pembrokes, they lived in the same part of town, one was gay, the other bisexual. They shared a passion for Ovid.”

36 + Shake-speare’s Sexuality In his book A History of Gay Literature, Gregory Woods devotes an entire chapter to Shakespeare. He quotes John Clum, who writes “In Shakespeare, bisexuality, hinted at, seems to be happily, if cautiously absorbed by society.” He then looks at the relationships in the plays, including that between Romeo and Mercutio, and Hal’s with Falstaff and the others in Henry IV Parts I and II.

37 + An Epidemic of Theatricality In Troilus & Cressida, he notes that by imitating and ridiculing their superiors, and thus inciting the other officers to do the same, “the older heroes’ authority is being threatened by an epidemic of satirical theatricality.” “There are connotation here of both contemporary Puritan objections to the theater itself, and of course, distrust of make love. Achilles and Patroclus are, at the very least, seeing too much of each other – homoerotically foresaking their homosocial obligations.”

38 + Shake-speare’s Sonnets Woods states that “The Sonnets are either deeply emotional expressions of love or subtle imitations of such – either private love poems or flamboyant public exercises in literary expression.” “They either constitute the greatest of the gay texts in the English language – or they do not.” He notes Simon Shepard’s warning that “the manhood of Englishness is at stake.”

39 + The Reputation of the so-called Bard Woods cites the example of Michelangelo’s sonnets, addressed to a young man, but subsequently changed “as in Michelangelo the Younger’s 1623 edition of his great-uncle’s Rime, certain radical editorial changes could be made to render the love poetry safe.” He concludes that “the bottom line is always the sexual orientation of the so-called Bard…the reputation of the sonneteer.” “For centuries the sequence has been testing the extent to which canonical English literature will ever be allowed to be ‘gay literature’ at all.”

40 + The Unanswerable Question “issues of the homoerotic in Shakespeare are hopelessly entwined in academic controversy. Everything seems to come back to the unanswerable question of Shakespeare’s own sexual orientation.” “... by calling attention to the large amount of homoerotic material, they raise serious questions about the nature of love in his works.” – Maurice Charney

41 + Sex & Shakespeare “From the beginnings of Shakespeare’s career, Two Gentlemen of Verona to the end of it, Two Noble Kinsmen, his plays are full of close, loving, even passionate male friendships.” - Stanley Wells “Again and again, the plots in Shakespeare's plays turn on the intimate relationship of two male friends driven apart by a woman.” – Bruce R. Smith

42 + Stratfordians and Oxfordians Agree! Peter Holland, in the New Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004), states that “the explicit homoeroticism [of the Sonnets] suggests that Shakespeare’s sexuality was consciously bisexual in its desires.” Harold Bloom: “The human endowment, Shakespeare keeps intimating, is bisexual.” J.T. Looney: Identified the “doubtful and somewhat conflicted attitude to women,” as one of the characteristics of the author, and that this ‘one characteristic' might afford an explanation for the very existence of the Shakespeare mystery.” Charlton Ogburn Jr. was repelled by the idea of Oxford being bisexual.

43 + Edward de Vere’s Sexuality Evidence for Oxford’s bisexuality would most likely be found in seven areas: 1. His relationship with his two wives and other women. 2. His relationship with Orazio Coquo. 3. The charges launched at him by his cousin Henry Howard and Charles Arundel. 4. The charges launched against him by Gabriel Harvey.

44 + Edward de Vere’s Sexuality 5. Barnabe Rich's 1581 description. 6. His homosexual poetry under his own name. 7. His involvement in the theater from 1582 – Gilbert: “That Oxford may well have been bisexual, seems plausible on several counts, including internal evidence from the plays”.

45 + Gabriel Harvey In 1580, Gabriel Harvey described Oxford in his Speculum Tuscanismi, as: “vain, frivolous, womanish, no man but a minion” (which, if used derogatorily, meant sodomite) ‘in deed most frivolous’... “Delicate in speech, quaint in array, conceited in all points, In courtly guiles a passing singular odd man...”. Oxford was furious and Harvey had to apologize and seek the protection of Robert Dudley, the Queen's favorite.

46 + Further Attacks on Oxford and Lyly Harvey attacked Oxford again in 1589, saying Lyly was his “minion secretary” and “his stale” (prostitute). And in 1593 calling Lyly the vice-master of Paul's (Oxford's boys acting company)... “ sometime the fiddlestick of Oxford, now the very bauble (slang for penis) of London.” In effect, Harvey was accusing both Oxford and Lyly of being sodomites.

47 + King or Queen? Barnabe Rich's description in 1581 “of a London gentleman extremely attracted to French fashions in dress, makes it practically certain that he is caricaturing Lord Oxford” (Ward). The gentleman was encountered in the Strand going toward Westminster - - near the home of William Cecil. “The gentleman rode a footcloth nag, apparelled in a French ruff, a French cloak, a French hose, and in his hand a great fan of feathers, bearing them up (very womanly) against the side of his face.”

48 + Clothes Make the Man “Whatever the function of Oxford's forest of feathers, there can be no denying that he strove with all his fortune to set the pattern of costume for his country. His expense accounts tell us in part of his sartorial aspiration and caprice. From the time of his adventures in Italy and France, and the return to England with his innovation of perfumed gloves, he tried to become for his country, “the glass of fashion and the mold of form.” (Feldman)

49 + Edward de Vere’s Poetry and Patronage Oxford wrote a poem in his own name that was clearly homosexual in tone – “The Lyvely Lark stretcht forth her wynge”, about a chance meeting with a knight in the “meades,” whose name is “Desyre.” Oxford was patron of two boy acting companies – the Children of Paul’s, and Children of the Chapel – during a time when puritans were complaining about homosexual behavior in the acting companies. Boy actors were notorious for their reputation as prostitutes.

50 + Social Stigma, Sexuality and Pseudonyms The link between an artist's sexuality, and the family's desire to cover that up is very strong. Wilde – Sent to prison Verlaine – Sent to prison Rimbaud –Many sonnets destroyed by family Michelangelo– Sonnets suppressed by family Forster – Published Maurice posthumously Federico Garcia Lorca – Executed Tchaikovsky – Committed suicide

51 + Oxford’s involvement with the theater Oxford’s associates in these companies would likely also be considered bisexual or homosexual today – both John Lyly, his secretary and playwright, and Sebastian Westcott, Master of the Children’s Chapel. Westcott never married, and his closest relations were with charges, to whom he left his estate when he died. As we have heard previously at this conference, there seems to be a direct correlation between Oxford’s involvement in the theater and the introduction of the pseudonym. We contend that the continued use of the pseudonym after Oxford’s death, and the resistance to unmasking the true author to this day, is inexorably linked to his sexuality.

52 + Sources Woods, Gregory A History of Gay Literature: The Male Tradition, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1998 Ciuraru, Carmela Nom de Plume: A (Secret) History of Pseudonyms, HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 2011 Weis, Rene Shakespeare Unbound: Decoding A Hidden Life, Henry Holt & Company LLC, New York, 2007 Bram, Christopher Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers Who Changed America, Hachette Book Group, New York, 2012 Lenz, Joseph Base Trade: Theater as Prostitution, The John Hopkins University Press, ELH Volume 60, No. 4, (Winter 1993) pp

53 + Sources Bristol, Michael D. Carnival and The Institutions of Theater in Elizabethan England, The John Hopkins University Press, ELH, Vol, 50 No. 4 (Winter 1983) pp Barbour, Richmond, “When I acted Young Antonious”: Boy Actors and the Erotics of Jonsonian Theater, Modern Language Association, PMLA, Vol 110 No. 5 (Oct. 1995) pp


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