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Eivy
09-23-2005, 12:39 PM
Hey why does everyone think Shakespeare is implying that Antonio is "'"gay"'"? I mean he could just be showing the love between a father and a son because there is no love that is as strong and pure as the love for your own child/children! And maybe because Antonio has no children of his own and he has grown old caring too much about his merchandise and trade that it was too late to think about a family (maybe he was a greedy young lad and all he cared about was his money and the "'"pleasures"'" of life being single without the worries of a family). And so the only hope of having one is to get close to Bassanio and helping him when need be. Its kinda weird thinking he is gay even though I remember my old English teacher telling us there were rumours that Shakespeare was "'"gay"'". Its funny now that I think about it because if Antonio is gay then I guess its true that Shakespeare was too! Are there any other gays in Shakespear"'"s plays?!?
Anyway I think Antonio might just be showing parental love.
I mean can"'"t a parent give everything up for his child/children?

mono
09-23-2005, 12:50 PM
I think the context of the plays composition era really affects the definition of the word 'gay.' True, nowadays one sees 'gay' much more often applied to homosexuality than its previously intended definition of meaning happy, bright, or vivacious.
Shakespeare had no homosexual relations that I know of, and I have seen no evidence, especially that he married a woman, but I suppose the possibility exists. Even if Shakespeare intended homosexuality in The Merchant Of Venice, I have difficulty seeing how that would make him also appear homosexual.
Just out of curiosity, I happened to make a quick search of 'gay' at http://www.dictionary.com/, and how the word has changed over time really shows, particularly in the order of definitions:

1. Of, relating to, or having a sexual orientation to persons of the same sex.
2. Showing or characterized by cheerfulness and lighthearted excitement; merry.
3. Bright or lively, especially in color: a gay, sunny room.
4. Given to social pleasures.
5. Dissolute; licentious.
source (http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=gay)

Eivy
09-23-2005, 02:28 PM
i got another reply on this web siite sparknotes beacuse i asked the same question and this person gave a really good reply and i think you should read it(as under):

Antonio is gay -- that remains a motivation for his behavior in MERCHANT OF VENICE
posted by SONNETCLV on 9/23 12:24 PM
I've posted my opinion on this topic a few times here at SparkNotes, so I'll refer you to those past posts, which include the following:


http://mb.sparknotes.com/mb.epl?b=851&m=186153&t=97808


http://mb.sparknotes.com/mb.epl?b=851&m=611230&t=205117


http://mb.sparknotes.com/mb.epl?b=851&m=651581&t=205117


http://mb.sparknotes.com/mb.epl?b=851&m=396347&t=150627

As for other Shakespearean characters who are gay? I nominate Benvolio from Romeo and Juliet. There seems to my reading a strong indication that Ben is in love with his cousin Romeo and would strongly encourage Romeo not to seek out love from women but to "be ruled by me. Forget to think of [Rosalind]...[Give] liberty unto thine eyes. Examine other beauties." Of course, it is Ben who is standing before Romeo when he says these lines.

I've commented on Benvolio before. Below are two informative links:


http://mb.sparknotes.com/mb.epl?r=1&b=859&m=216864&t=92741


http://mb.sparknotes.com/mb.epl?r=1&b=859&m=264461&t=111981

Who else in Shakespeare is gay? There are hints of homosexual behavior in Two Gentlemen of Verona, and the character Antonio (intriguing name, eh?) in Twelfth Night is almost certainly gay.

Shakespeare doesn't overemphasize gayness. As an observer of life and people he simply noticed that such persons exist. We cannot know the full effect of who may or may not be gay. Donalbain in Macbeth, to use one example, is never identified in terms of his sexual preference. Could he be gay? Could he be straight? It simply doesn't matter. And when it doesn't matter, Shakespeare doesn't make to pretend it matters.

But in Merchant of Venice the very motivation that Antonio the merchant has for giving up so much for the flamboyant, money-squandering Bassanio is grounded in affections of the heart. Indeed, it is no accident that the "pound of flesh" that Antonio will lose for defaulting on his loan is his very heart, which he gives to Bassanio, asking nothing in return. A close reading of the lines between Antonio and Bassanio are quite revealing, as are Antonio's lines when he comments that he hopes Bassanio can visit him before he dies. Bassanio always strikes me as quite ignorant of the real feelings of Antonio. Indeed, I have never found Bassanio especially likeable in any way, and I have always wondered what it is that Portia might see in him. Portia, like Rosalind in As You Like It, and like so many other witty females in Shakespeare is forced to settle for less in a man than she truly deserves. Why Shakespeare does this to his females I cannot fathom. Perhaps he merely recognizes a superiority of character in women and knows no man is a true match for a great woman.

But was Shakespeare himself gay? There is really no evidence that points to this direction. We do know Shakespeare married and had children. But that is not evidence of much, either. My own opinion is that Shakespeare, whose consciousness was profoundly deep and broad, could probably not be confined within a single sexuality and was most likely bi-sexual. Of course, this is mere speculation. There is no overt evidence one way or the other. It's just that I like to have a Shakespeare who is everything.

Shakespeare's ability to write a gay character, or even his willingness to do so, do not point to his own sexuality. We who are playwrights create a variety of characters whom we simply cannot be, or, in many instances, would care to be. The skill one needs to write believable women need not come from one's own experience at being a woman. Shakespeare wrote not only the best men, but the best women of anyone.

What the man did in his private space and free time is anyone's guess. But I can assure you, he utilized much of that free time to write. What Shakespeare did is not easy, and as Ben Jonson so artfully reminds us: "A good poet is made as well as born." No matter how natural a genius Shakespeare was, his plays got written only through the hard work of putting pen to page. Whether Shakespeare was gay or straight or a bit of both, it is writing that remained his only true passion.

--SONNET CLV--

Tell me what you think.

Basil
09-24-2005, 04:46 PM
But was Shakespeare himself gay?
Many people have tried to use Shakespeare's sonnets as "evidence" that he was homosexual. I like Shakespeare scholar Stephen Booth's comment regarding this subject:

"William Shakespeare was almost certainly homosexual, bisexual, or heterosexual. The sonnets provide no evidence on the matter."

Eivy
09-25-2005, 03:12 PM
Hey Basil that is well said (pretty simple and clear lol!).
I have no idea but Iím jus askin people because they r telling me that it is important and then some r telling me it isnít so Iím kinda confused here! Iím doing shakespearís play for the first time and I really need help!

I also got another reply which is as under:

There are a lot of people . . .posted by Jasonaught on 9/23 8:34 PM
. . . who do not see their relationship as a gay one. Bassanio is first introduced to the play as Antonio's "noble kinsman" which to my thinking means a valued relative, probably a nephew. Perhaps unmarried Antonio is an uncle who has long cared for his dead brother's son. Who knows, who cares - clearly Shakespeare does not consider it important enough to clarify nor does he ever make it clear that they are lovers as the new Pacino movie seemed to want to indicate. That is not a part of the play and we can be sure that if Shakespeare had wanted to highlight it he would have. It is a love/hate story and there are a number of very well depicted love relationships and one very horrendous hate filled situation. Play it as you will, it is not a story of unrequited love between Antonio and Bassanio - imvho.


This person is saying Antonio isnít gay which I thought but I donít really know anymore!
Are you good at Shakespearís work? And do u know ďThe Merchant of VeniceĒ well?
If you do can you help me if it isnít a bothr though!

Tango
01-13-2006, 12:19 AM
I think that when dealing with a subject like this we need to remember the time period that this was written in. In the present the actions of Antonio towards Bassanio may seem a tad homosexual, but back then it was a common thing to speak to your friends in such a manner. People were poetic, and shakespere had created a niche for himself in being a tad dramatic. Shakespear is no more homosexual than Bill Clinton, and I would stand against any argument that said otherwise.

Tango.

kelby_lake
02-18-2010, 08:52 AM
Whether there is a seuxal element in Antonio and Bassiano's relationship isn't important. Antonio's motivation for hating Shylock is racism.

Shakespeare's plays are full of gender-bending and a lot of the relationships and characters are suss. Iago is probably the only character who we can say is homosexual (the others just have very close relationships)

wessexgirl
02-18-2010, 01:07 PM
Whether there is a seuxal element in Antonio and Bassiano's relationship isn't important. Antonio's motivation for hating Shylock is racism.

Shakespeare's plays are full of gender-bending and a lot of the relationships and characters are suss. Iago is probably the only character who we can say is homosexual (the others just have very close relationships)

Can we? Where's your evidence?

kelby_lake
02-19-2010, 07:32 AM
Iago feigns the whole man-love thing with Othello that Shakespeare's other plays feature (loyalty to your friend first and foremost, platonic love). Does he go overboard, especially with pledging all of him to Othello? What is power to Iago? The ambiguous 'I am your own for ever'.

Iago's hatred of women. (can't find the passage because my internet is screwy but it's relatively early on)

Iago's Puritanical 'we can control our bodies speech' (somewhere in Act 1)

Iago and Hamlet are quite similar in some respects. They are both disillusioned by women, both quite Puritanical...but there is nothing to suggest that Hamlet and Horatio's relationship is anything other than innocent.

This passage from Act 3, Scene 3 is probably the most telling:

IAGO: I lay with Cassio lately;
And, being troubled with a raging tooth,
I could not sleep.
There are a kind of men so loose of soul,
That in their sleeps will mutter their affairs:
One of this kind is Cassio:
In sleep I heard him say 'Sweet Desdemona,
Let us be wary, let us hide our loves;'
And then, sir, would he gripe and wring my hand,
Cry 'O sweet creature!' and then kiss me hard,
As if he pluck'd up kisses by the roots
That grew upon my lips: then laid his leg
Over my thigh, and sigh'd, and kiss'd; and then
Cried 'Cursed fate that gave thee to the Moor!'

An incredibly bizarre lie but very vivid. If Iago was straight and wanted to convince Othello, he could have said that Cassio kissed the pillow or just mumbled something more telling. Instead Iago casts himself in the role of Desdemona- perhaps trying to make Othello jealous, or at least, fulfilling his own fantasy. Prior to this Iago has been very crude, suggesting that he is actually very Puritanical and anything sexual disgusts him. Othello's racial stereotype is as insatiably lustful; this is what disgusts Iago, not merely racism.

wessexgirl
02-19-2010, 08:29 AM
Iago feigns the whole man-love thing with Othello that Shakespeare's other plays feature (loyalty to your friend first and foremost, platonic love). Does he go overboard, especially with pledging all of him to Othello? What is power to Iago? The ambiguous 'I am your own for ever'.

Iago's hatred of women. (can't find the passage because my internet is screwy but it's relatively early on)

Iago's Puritanical 'we can control our bodies speech' (somewhere in Act 1)

Iago and Hamlet are quite similar in some respects. They are both disillusioned by women, both quite Puritanical...but there is nothing to suggest that Hamlet and Horatio's relationship is anything other than innocent.

This passage from Act 3, Scene 3 is probably the most telling:

IAGO: I lay with Cassio lately;
And, being troubled with a raging tooth,
I could not sleep.
There are a kind of men so loose of soul,
That in their sleeps will mutter their affairs:
One of this kind is Cassio:
In sleep I heard him say 'Sweet Desdemona,
Let us be wary, let us hide our loves;'
And then, sir, would he gripe and wring my hand,
Cry 'O sweet creature!' and then kiss me hard,
As if he pluck'd up kisses by the roots
That grew upon my lips: then laid his leg
Over my thigh, and sigh'd, and kiss'd; and then
Cried 'Cursed fate that gave thee to the Moor!'

An incredibly bizarre lie but very vivid. If Iago was straight and wanted to convince Othello, he could have said that Cassio kissed the pillow or just mumbled something more telling. Instead Iago casts himself in the role of Desdemona- perhaps trying to make Othello jealous, or at least, fulfilling his own fantasy. Prior to this Iago has been very crude, suggesting that he is actually very Puritanical and anything sexual disgusts him. Othello's racial stereotype is as insatiably lustful; this is what disgusts Iago, not merely racism.

Don't buy that at all. Not proven, as I believe they say in Scotland :). A director could try and use that interpretation, but I only say could. I see Iago as a truly malicious being, and the fact that he's acting out a very vivid lie is to get Othello mad, with the thought of what Cassio has been up to with his wife. How does that prove he's gay?

Janine
02-19-2010, 02:44 PM
Don't buy that at all. Not proven, as I believe they say in Scotland . A director could try and use that interpretation, but I only say could. I see Iago as a truly malicious being, and the fact that he's acting out a very vivid lie is to get Othello mad, with the thought of what Cassio has been up to with his wife. How does that prove he's gay?

I totally agree. I don't see a shred of gayness about Iago. That is not what he is about. He mentions in his first speech that he thinks the Moor has done service between his sheets with his own wife. His rage and hatred of the Moor is totally malicious and filled with jealousy and all matter of evil. He is jealous of the Moor's good standing; he's jealous of his high esteem with women; he's jealous of his chosen lieutenant, Cassio. He graves that position of importance and power; probably goes beyond that to plot for the position that Othello now holds. I think all his motives revolve around power and he wants to bring them all down. In doing so, he meets his own ruin. Then he will not answer Othello, as to his motives; but to the reader, it's quite clear what they have been from the beginning.

applepie
02-19-2010, 02:56 PM
This is one of those interesting little things about plays. We're dependent entirely on snippets of conversation and our own interpretation to come to conclusions. I've never been struck by anything that I see as homosexual innuendo in Shakespeare's plays, but even if there is I don't suppose it is that odd for the time. Homosexuality, or rather bisexuality has been more or less prevalent throughout history to varying degrees. It would not seem odd to me to find possible undertones in Shakespeare's works.

kelby_lake
02-19-2010, 03:37 PM
Don't buy that at all. Not proven, as I believe they say in Scotland :). A director could try and use that interpretation, but I only say could. I see Iago as a truly malicious being, and the fact that he's acting out a very vivid lie is to get Othello mad, with the thought of what Cassio has been up to with his wife. How does that prove he's gay?

I did say 'can say' :) But why would Iago tell a lie in that way? He could easily make up a vivid lie that didn't include Cassio coming on to him.

There's a lot of sexual undertones, imagery, etc. in the play and I don't believe that Iago's attitude to it is irrelevant. Yes, it would be very 2D just to have him as a closeted gay but it's equally dismissive just to say that he has, as Coleridge said, 'motiveless malignity'. Aaron in Titus Andronicus has what could be said as motiveless malignity- he does far more despicable and gruesome things- and yet his character is less interesting than Iago. Pretty much all Shakespeare's villains are malicious.

It's a power game, certainly, but there are other motives. I believe that he wants to be inhuman and motiveless, so he can hold that above everyone- which is why he doesn't reveal his motives- but ultimately he is driven by human desires, which may or may not include a sexual element.

We cannot prove any interpretation; it's just what Iago says. Hence the popularity.

wessexgirl
02-19-2010, 08:18 PM
I did say 'can say' :) But why would Iago tell a lie in that way? He could easily make up a vivid lie that didn't include Cassio coming on to him.

But he's going out of his way to make Othello jealous. Cassio isn't coming on to him, but to Desdemona, (in the imagination). I still don't see why this could point to Iago being gay. He's manipulating Othello, ( as we all know), how does this point to his sexuality?

Janine
02-20-2010, 03:01 PM
But he's going out of his way to make Othello jealous. Cassio isn't coming on to him, but to Desdemona, (in the imagination). I still don't see why this could point to Iago being gay. He's manipulating Othello, ( as we all know), how does this point to his sexuality?

I totally agree with you again, wessexgirl. How does this indicate his sexuality. I think in Shakespeare's day and reflected in his text's it was not unusual for men to be close. For instance in Hamlet he often refers to his friends and their 'love; men would not go around today saying 'love' to another man. It was entirely different interpretation of language. Iago could have meant he lay out in a field or in tent (no, it's not Brokeback Mountain! :lol:) with Cassio because he was ailing and needed some company. Our 21t century brains see it differently - we automatically think they shared a bed...even if they did so, I see nothing homosexual about the occurance. Iago is merely trying graphically to portray to Othello the act of longing for Desdemonia by Cassio...he wants him to believe they are the ones sleeping together, not Iago and he. He is totally undermining their thoughts and then controlling their actions. He is very manipulative and that is what is fascinting about the play.

I also do not see Antonio as gay. He is merely seeing his own spent youth in Bassino. He is more fatherly and respectful and not at all gay, in my eyes. If you wanted to really imagine gay, then think the two women who pose as men (switching genders) are lesbians. We all know that would be absurd.

OrphanPip
02-20-2010, 03:22 PM
There's no explicit homosexuality in Shakespeare's plays, like there is in some Marlowe or in the Libertine writing of the Restoration a century later. However, it is equally naieve to think that Elizabethan audiences would be completely ignorant of homosexual undertones. The audiences would be aware of homosexual acts and desires, but they wouldn't have had a conception of someone being ''gay'' or ''lesbian'' in the way we do today.

xman
02-20-2010, 10:31 PM
I must agree with the bulk of respondents. There is nothing gay about either Antonio or Iago and any such interpretation is stretched. That's not to say that an interpretation of Antonio as gay isn't an interesting one, but Iago, certainly not. It would devalue his motive and the strength of his character to portray him as gay IMO. Sorry, I think you're grasping at this one Kelby.

kelby_lake
02-22-2010, 03:04 PM
But he's going out of his way to make Othello jealous. Cassio isn't coming on to him, but to Desdemona, (in the imagination). I still don't see why this could point to Iago being gay. He's manipulating Othello, ( as we all know), how does this point to his sexuality?

Othello would imagine it being Desdemona but the majority of the audience would see it as two men. Therefore one might argue that there is an undercurrent there which a director may or may not choose to pick up on.

Of course, if a director chose to make Iago concretely gay, and that he was jealous because he couldn't connect with women, that would undermine it, just as it would to take a concrete view of any of Shakespeare's characters.

It seems bizarre to me that no one would look at Iago's views on sexuality when the whole play is based on a rumour of adultery and a scandalous marriage. I'm pretty sure he has 'issues', whether he is Puritanical, repressed, self-loathing, impotent, gets power kicks...whatever one chooses to suggest to the audience. But to wash over it means that you deny him a charge that Desdemona, Othello, and to an extent Emilia, have.

I find it incredible that people could think that Antonio and Bassiano are homosexual. There is nowhere in the text that suggests they have any sexual desire for each other. Antonio's 'fie fie!' as his denial of being in love is often cited as being proof of that...but he might just be a bit of a loner.

Amusingly in Julius Caesar, the student textbook I had kept having to define the term 'lover' on every page as meaning friend. Some of the lines- there's one where someone says Caesar is 'his best lover'- might be understood

wessexgirl
02-22-2010, 03:35 PM
Othello would imagine it being Desdemona but the majority of the audience would see it as two men. Therefore one might argue that there is an undercurrent there which a director may or may not choose to pick up on.

Of course, if a director chose to make Iago concretely gay, and that he was jealous because he couldn't connect with women, that would undermine it, just as it would to take a concrete view of any of Shakespeare's characters.

It seems bizarre to me that no one would look at Iago's views on sexuality when the whole play is based on a rumour of adultery and a scandalous marriage. I'm pretty sure he has 'issues', whether he is Puritanical, repressed, self-loathing, impotent, gets power kicks...whatever one chooses to suggest to the audience. But to wash over it means that you deny him a charge that Desdemona, Othello, and to an extent Emilia, have.

I find it incredible that people could think that Antonio and Bassiano are homosexual. There is nowhere in the text that suggests they have any sexual desire for each other. Antonio's 'fie fie!' as his denial of being in love is often cited as being proof of that...but he might just be a bit of a loner.

Amusingly in Julius Caesar, the student textbook I had kept having to define the term 'lover' on every page as meaning friend. Some of the lines- there's one where someone says Caesar is 'his best lover'- might be understood

Now Caesar did have male lovers.......

kelby_lake
07-23-2010, 06:50 AM
Not in Shakespeare's play though.

Katiki
04-11-2011, 06:34 PM
I must agree with the bulk of respondents. There is nothing gay about either Antonio or Iago and any such interpretation is stretched.

Such adamant deniability from the bulk of respondents.

One thing is saying that there's no explicit homosexuality, but to blindly deny it is very prejudiced.

If you say that there's nothing gay about Antonio, it must be because you have the character perfectly outlined and understood. Can you explain me, then, why was Antonio so sad when the play starts? And why was he so sad when he said goodbye to Bassanio before Bassanio went to choose the right casket at Portia's house? Both things happened before his vessels were damaged, so it had nothing to do with that.

Also, can any of you explain, if there's nothing to suggest Shakespeare's homosexuality, these lines of one of his sonnets?

Till Nature, as she wrought thee, fell a-doting,
And by addition me of thee defeated,
By adding one thing to my purpose nothing.
But since she prick'd thee out for women's pleasure,
Mine be thy love and thy love's use their treasure.

I guess the ones who say that Shakespeare was definitely NOT bisexual must think that these lines were refering to a Martian alien (reserved for women's pleasure, of course).

Shakespeare did not include explicit homosexuality most likely because he would have ended dying at the stake, at a time where you could have that very same fate only for saying that you were a Catholic or a Jew. So, as another poster mentioned before, concepts then were not the same as concepts now. The fact that Shakespeare did not have his characters say "I am homosexual/gay" or "he just came out of the closet" doesn't mean that there isn't homoerotic subtext (in some of his plays) or explicit homosexuality (in his sonnets).

Coco
02-12-2012, 08:01 PM
While I see the "textual evidence," I don't believe Shakespeare intends Antonio to be homosexual. In his time, for a man to say he loved another man simply meant that he cared a lot about that man. I've read about John Kennedy and that men said they "loved the president." That doesn't mean they were in love with him, only that they admired and respected him.

If Antonio is in love with Bassanio, why does he give him money to go off and woo Portia? Why wouldn't he deny him the cash so that he'd have to stay home and be close to Antonio?

Even if Antonio is in love with Bassanio, who cares? Why must sexuality be part of everything? The point of the story is the loan and the forfeiture of a pound of flesh.

stanley2
10-24-2014, 02:06 PM
Perhaps some people accept a gay Antonio after reading Graham Midgley's fine 1960 essay. Having read ROMEO AND JULIET and the 1976 CLIFF'S NOTE's I thought that Antonio desired Shylock's wife. Samuel Johnson's "poet of nature" comment is helpful here as the idea that Antonio may be gay but is more likely heterosexual stands up, as it were, to further study. Regarding Shakespeare himself, one might note that he was born during the early years of Elizabeth's reign and wrote the play near the end. So, it seems reasonable that he regarded her as an important person in his audience.