To Gender or Not to Gender
"Sex is one of the constants in human experience; sexuality, one of the variables."
Bruce Smith, Homosexual Desire in Shakespeare's England.
Sexuality in Renaissance England was ambiguous. The current common idea or definition of "homosexual" did not exist in Renaissance England. Today, people are defined as 'homosexual'; this becomes their identity: I am a homosexual. In Renaissance England, this type of sexual identity did not exist. One would not refer to oneself as a homosexual. According to Stephen Orgel in Impersonations: The Performance of Gender in Shakespeare's England, the category of 'homosexual' did not exist as a mode of self identification or self-definition. This was an act, not an identification, a label, or a 'life-style' as it is viewed today. There existed no word to define oneself as 'homosexual'. They referred to 'sodomy' or 'buggery' which were lewd sexual acts that included heterosexual divergences. This distinction between homosexual men and heterosexual men did not exist. Alan Bray states, "Outside an immediately sexual context, there was little or no social pressure for someone to define for himself what his sexuality...
Join Now to View Premium Content
GradeSaver provides access to 763 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 5061 literature essays, 1531 sample college application essays, 195 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.
Already a member? Log in