View Full Version : Homosexuality in Shakespeare

06-07-2006, 10:50 PM
Does anyone have any insights into Antonio's character in Merchant of Venice?

Operating under the assumption that he is gay, I have two ideas.

The first is that the reason he behaves the way he does towards Shylock is that he knows that if he came "out" he would be treated very badly, and this causes rage and all these other emotions to be pent up inside of him. He then lashes out at the first person whom it is socially acceptable to lash out at, the local Jew.

The second is that, in Shakepeare's time it was generally considered that you could not be gay and a Christian both, and Shakespeare would have known this. I feel that SHakespeare was not a racist, and that he made Shylock out to be the victim in MoV. (Or it would be racism if Judaism were a race, which it isn't exactly.) Shakespeare is also pointing out a flaw in the Christian system, the hypocrisy of some of Christianity's "followers". Antonio is the most hateful and hoppocritical, which leads me to say that perhaps Shakespeare made him as a bad Christian. So the only obviously homosexual character in the play is also the least Christian. (Christian in this case meaning kind, forgiving, tolerant, loving, basically everything the bible says that Christians are supposed to be.) Hmm...

Any thoughts? Am i stretching the connections too much?

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06-10-2006, 05:41 PM
I have not thought about the subject much but I do know one thing-whether Shakespeare meant to do that or not, he was not showing a flaw in Christianity but the surface-depth of some of its nominal followers. In other words, not everyone who says they are a Christian is one...especially back then when it was the generally assumed thing.

10-30-2006, 10:14 AM
I don't think Antonio is not gay because he is a Christian and christians aren't brought up like that they are brought up on the story of Adam and Eve!

10-30-2006, 11:57 AM
Have a look at Shakespeare's sonnets... You might be in for a surprise. Maybe being 'gay' had different meanings in those days.

10-30-2006, 12:56 PM
We took this up last year. According to the additional notes at the back of my MoV book, it says there that the concept of love as "homosexuality" didn't exist then when Shakespeare wrote it, so by taking it in that way, we might be interpreting it out of context. Who knows? Maybe it's really some sort of extremely bizarre friendship between two men who "love" each other. Then again, homosexuality has existed since the Greeks, so I'm not really sure. And Antonio and Bassanio's actions do raise an eyebrow at times...

As to Antonio being hyppocritical, I think Shakespeare meant it that way, as a good point of comparison between him and Shylock; it's ironic to seek revenge on a "bad" Jew when you aren't absolved from your own sins. It blurs the line between hero and villain, and makes one rethink what kind of society it was really back then.

11-29-2006, 03:07 AM
We talked in class about Shylock being aware that Antonio is a poor Christian, and that the bargain he makes with Antonio is meant to point out to others the contridiction in his actions vs. his supposed beliefs. What I saw in the bargain is that Shylock is giving money to Antonio to give to Bassanio in exchange for a pound of flesh, which means that Shylock is equating the flesh to money. In this, he is also equating the giving of flesh/the body (sex) to the giving of money, meaning that, more or less, Antonio is giving his body to Bassanio. I don't know if Shakespeare intended that or not, however it is an interesting thought.

01-15-2008, 10:52 PM
Even if there wasn't a concept of "homosexuality" back in those times, Antonio's actions and feelings that are shown towards Bassanio is definitely not that of friendship, but something more.

In Act I, in the beginning scene Antonio is depressed, and does not know why. Someone questions him, I forget whom, if it is because of love that he is down, and Antonio denies it. (rather too quickly?)

Antonio also seems to be too willing to risk all of his entirety of his fortune for Bassanio's loan. Antonio's willingness to offer up a pound of his own flesh is also important, seeing how he's basically giving up his life for Bassanio. (relating to what Richard said) This offering of one's own flesh could also signify the rites of marriage, where two partners become "one flesh".

Although the reason for Antonio's melancholy isn't revealed, evidence seem to point out that it is because of love for Bassanio.

01-15-2008, 10:54 PM
Sorry, no ideas about that play..but I once actually wrote an essay about the homoerotic subtext as a resistant interpretation of Iago and Othello's relationship?

02-18-2010, 08:42 AM
Sorry, no ideas about that play..but I once actually wrote an essay about the homoerotic subtext as a resistant interpretation of Iago and Othello's relationship?

There's definitely a sexual element to Iago and Othello's relationship, but I don't see anything sexual about Antonio and Bassiano's relationship. Whilst they might love each other to a great extent (indeed B does more so than his own wife), I don't see any evidence of sexual attraction.

Homosexuality in other Shakespearean works: definitely some in Othello, a possible Hamlet/Horatio relationship, maybe some repressed thing in Macbeth...most of Shakespeare's plays have male characters who are more loyal to other men than they are to women. There's also a lot of gender bending and some homoseuxality in the sonnets (the famous sonnet 18 was actually written to a man).

mike thomas
08-30-2010, 10:46 AM
There's nothing in MOV which might point to any of its characters being in any way, shape or form, gay.

It seems that the only thing which seems to hold the attention of readers are possible signs of illicit sexual behaviour. The fact that Anthonio (note the correct spelling) is close to Bassanio might have other implications, but I doubt if there's any chance they will be discussed in this place.

I posted that Juliet is gay and get loads of views. Post something which might need an active brain cell and not whisper.

08-30-2010, 01:00 PM
Perhaps a new word like homolove is needed rather than homosexual.

09-12-2010, 04:45 PM
Perhaps a new word like homolove is needed rather than homosexual.

It's called platonic, lol. Or bromance :)

Jassy Melson
09-12-2010, 06:20 PM
You are cheating yourself when you wonder about the sexual orientation of certain literary characters. Just let it go and don't worry about it, and enjoy the work the character is in.