Twelfth Night

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...

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