A Queer Companion to the Complete Works of Shakespeare

Book Pages: 512 Illustrations: 18 illustrations Published: February 2011

Gender and Sexuality > LGBTQ Studies, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Theory, Pre-Modern Studies > Medieval and Early Modern Studies

Shakesqueer puts the most exciting queer theorists in conversation with the complete works of William Shakespeare. Exploring what is odd, eccentric, and unexpected in the Bard’s plays and poems, these theorists highlight not only the many ways that Shakespeare can be queered but also the many ways that Shakespeare can enrich queer theory. This innovative anthology reveals an early modern playwright insistently returning to questions of language, identity, and temporality, themes central to contemporary queer theory. Since many of the contributors do not study early modern literature, Shakesqueer takes queer theory back and brings Shakespeare forward, challenging the chronological confinement of queer theory to the last two hundred years. The book also challenges conceptual certainties that have narrowly equated queerness with homosexuality. Chasing all manner of stray desires through every one of Shakespeare’s plays and poems, the contributors cross temporal, animal, theoretical, and sexual boundaries with abandon. Claiming adherence to no one school of thought, the essays consider The Winter’s Tale alongside network TV, Hamlet in relation to the death drive, King John as a history of queer theory, and Much Ado About Nothing in tune with a Sondheim musical. Together they expand the reach of queerness and queer critique across chronologies, methodologies, and bodies.

Contributors. Matt Bell, Amanda Berry, Daniel Boyarin, Judith Brown, Steven Bruhm, Peter Coviello, Julie Crawford, Drew Daniel, Mario DiGangi, Lee Edelman, Jason Edwards, Aranye Fradenburg, Carla Freccero, Daniel Juan Gil, Jonathan Goldberg, Jody Greene, Stephen Guy-Bray, Ellis Hanson, Sharon Holland, Cary Howie, Lynne Huffer, Barbara Johnson, Hector Kollias, James Kuzner , Arthur L. Little Jr., Philip Lorenz, Heather Love, Jeffrey Masten, Robert McRuer , Madhavi Menon, Michael Moon, Paul Morrison, Andrew Nicholls, Kevin Ohi, Patrick R. O’Malley, Ann Pellegrini, Richard Rambuss, Valerie Rohy, Bethany Schneider, Kathryn Schwarz, Laurie Shannon, Ashley T. Shelden, Alan Sinfield, Bruce Smith, Karl Steel, Kathryn Bond Stockton, Amy Villarejo, Julian Yates


“[T]he only collection that engages the entirety of Shakespeare’s body of work with queer theory. It is a much-needed addition to both queer and Shakespearean scholarship, broadening and enriching both fields of study and loosening their constraints.”
— Helen Deborah Lewis, Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism

“In the end, this book is a big, glorious mess, full of playful juxtapositions and frightening possibilities. It is thrilling. Theatre scholars, queer theorists, actors, directors, and dramaturges will all find something useful and interesting.” — Michael Cramer, Sixteenth Century Journal

“Take forty-eight smart and interesting thinkers working in the field of queer theory – some of them Shakespeareans and early modernists, some not – that is one for each of the forty-five works by Shakespeare, plus three for the Sonnets. Get them to write – more or less reluctantly – their observations on the individual work of William Shakespeare allocated to them. . . . Then, in a deliciously hip anachronistic move, apply the notion of queerness to Shakespeare’s opus in order to uphold the idea of its continuing relevance. By rearranging the pixels on the icon of Shakespeare, turn him into an altogether different, modern, fresh, re-thought kind of icon; yet an icon nevertheless. Or, as the Bard himself puts it: one must be cruel only to be kind.” — Danijela Kambaskovic-Sawers, Parergon

“When studying endless Shakespeare plays on English Literature courses, we always had a hunch there were some exceptionally queer goings on beyond some same sex sonnets and this collection of essays proves us right. Earl on earl analysis sits beside complex queer theories on the bard.” — Gay Times

“Few works of literary criticism deserve the descriptor ‘monumental,’ but this one does. . . . The book is both readable and witty. It is also important, for it drives the final nail into the coffin of 20th-century Shakespearean studies. . . . No hierarchies survive this book. Every play and poem receives a fresh new reading. . . . Essential. All readers.” — M. J. Emery, Choice

“If you're looking for clues to Romeo and Mercutio's secret romance in the new academic volume Shakesqueer : A Queer Companion to the Complete Works of Shakespeare, edited by Madhavi Menon (Duke), you're barking up the wrong yew tree. American University professor Menon and her queer-theorist contributors find queerness in Shakespeare in that term's most all-encompassing meaning of oddball, unusual, or non-normative. But when you come to think of it, fairy queen Titania falling in love with an ass named Bottom is pretty queer, in all senses of the word.” — Roberto Friedman, Bay Area Reporter

“It is rare to see a volume that does so much, and does it with such consistent wit, thoughtfulness, and creativity. . . . In putting together this volume, Menon has done scholars from all fields and periods an immense service. Shakesqueer gives us a very queer new reading ‘’companion’’ — friend, helpmeet, comrade-in-arms — that makes us exquisitely aware of the need for the perverse and disruptive critical practice its essays so pleasurably model.” — Melissa E. Sanchez, Renaissance Quarterly

“There’s something for every queer scholar and Bard-lover in the anthology; from bears in Henry VIII to eunuchs in Antony and Cleopatra, from the death drive in Hamlet to precariously heterosexual marriages in All’s Well that Ends Well, the contributing authors chart Shakespeare’s varied engagements with queerness, putting pressure on assumptions that Shakespeare has nothing to offer to contemporary queer theory. . . . The assorted essays assert that Shakespeare has as much to offer queer theory as queer theory can contribute to understanding and deconstructing the Bard’s texts. This book belongs on every bookish queer’s shelf, right where the leather-bound Complete Works of William Shakespeare butts up against Butler and Foucault.” — Kestryl Cael Lowrey, Lambda Literary Review

“[Shakesqueer] manages to put the fun back into academic research. Shakesqueer is a highly entertaining collection of essays, which all focus on the strange, the unusual, that is, the queer element in the Shakespearean oeuvre.” — Veronika Schandl, European Journal of English Studies

“This balance of well-known and newer voices, taken alongside the predominance of non-Shakespearean queer scholars writing about Shakespeare’s works, results in a collection that will appeal to readers interested in Shakespeare and sexuality studies, including theatre educators, artists, and scholars.”  — Chad Allen Thomas, Theatre History Studies

"This book examines Shakespeare's work in an engaging and ambitious fashion and focuses on all facets of the author's work including poetry." — Arun Chun, Year's Work in English Studies

"For 'insider experts'—those who are Shakespeareans, queer theorists, or both (always, already, at once)—Shakesqueer provides a garden of delights between its covers. . . . Shakesqueer extends, enriches, and strengthens the vocabulary of Shakespeare criticism in concert with queer theory." — Stephen F. Evans, Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Teaching

“The adventurous essays in Shakesqueer demonstrate that queer theory does indeed need Shakespeare, if only to defy rumors of its own demise: the essays show what is vital about a queer studies that might have been thought by this point too domesticated or reified or ‘fixed’ to be intellectually vibrant.” — Carolyn Dinshaw, author of Getting Medieval: Sexualities and Communities, Pre- and Postmodern

“What happens when queer theory gets into bed with Shakespeare? A play in forty-eight acts, this spirited group production never ceases to entertain and surprise with its queer cast of characters: virgins, eunuchs, and lechers; queens, kings, and pageboys; tyrants, assassins, and killjoys; lions, tigers, and bears—oh my! Full of toil and trouble, wit and wisdom, Shakesqueer succeeds where few other edited collections do: it puts the play back in playwright, and the fun back in theory.” — Diana Fuss, Princeton University


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Madhavi Menon is Associate Professor of Literature at American University. She is the author of Unhistorical Shakespeare: Queer Theory in Shakespearean Literature and Film and Wanton Words: Rhetoric and Sexuality in English Renaissance Drama.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Introduction. Queer Shakes / Madhavi Menon 1

All is True (Henry VIII)
The Unbearable Sex of Henry VIII / Steven Bruhm 28

All's Well That Ends Well
Is Marriage Always Already Heterosexual? / Julie Crawford 39

Antony and Cleopatra
Aught an Eunuch Has / Ellis Hanson 48

As You Like It
Fortune's Turn / Valerie Rohy 55

"Absonant Desire": The Question of Cardenio / Philip Lorenz 62

The Comedy of Errors
In Praise of Error / Lynne Huffer 72

"Tell Me Not Wherein I Seem Unnatural": Queer Meditations on Coriolanus in the Time of War / Jason Edwards 80

desire vomit emptiness: Cymbeline's Marriage Time / Amanda Berry 89

Hamlet's Wounded Name / Lee Edelman 97

Henry IV, Part 1
When Harry Met Harry / Matt Bell 106

Henry IV, Part 2
The Deep Structure of Sexuality: War and Masochism in Henry IV, Part 2 / Daniel Juan Gil 114

King Henry V
Scrambling Harry and Sampling Hal / Drew Daniel 121

Henry VI, Part 1
"Wounded Alpha Bad Boy Soldier" / Mario Digangi 130

Henry VI, Part 2
The Gayest Play Ever / Stephen Guy-Bray 139

Henry VI, Part 3
Stay / Cary Howie 146

Julius Caeser
Thus, Always: Julius Caesar and Abraham Lincoln / Bethany Schneider 152

King John
Queer Futility: Or, The Life and Death of King John / Kathryn Schwarz 163

King Lear
Lear's Queer Cosmos / Laurie Shannon 171

A Lover's Complaint
Learning How to Love (Again) / Ashley T. Shelden 179

Love's Labour's Lost
The L Words / Madhavi Menon 187

Love's Labour's Won
Doctorin' the Bard: A Contemporary Appropriation of Love's Labour's Won / Hector Kollias 194

Milk / Heather Love 201

Measure for Measure
Same-Saint Desire / Paul Morrison 209

The Merchant of Venice
The Rites of Queer Marriage in The Merchant of Venice / Arthur L. Little Jr. 216

The Merry Wives of Windsor
What Do Women Want? / Jonathan Goldberg 225

A Midsummer Night's Dream
Shakespeare's Ass Play / Richard Rambuss 234

Much Ado About Nothing
Closing Ranks, Keeping Company: Marriage Plots and the Will to be Single in Much Ado About Nothing / Ann Pellegrini 245

Othello's Penis: Or, Islam in the Closet / Daniel Boyarin 254

"Curious Pleasures": Pericles beyond the Civility of Union / Patrick O'Malley 263

The Phoenix and the Turtle
Number There in Love Was Slain / Karl Steel 271

The Rape of Lucree
Desire My Pilot Is / Peter Coviello 278

Richard II
Pretty Richard / Judith Brown 286

Richard III
Fuck the Disabled: The Prequel / Robert McRuer 294

Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet Love Death / Carla Freccero 302

Sir Thomas More
More or Less Queer / Jeffrey Masten 309

The Sonnets
Momma's Boy / Aranye Fradenburg 319

Speech Therapy / Barbara Johnson 328

More Life: Shakespeare's Sonnet Machines / Julian Yates 333

The Taming of the Shrew
Latin Lovers in The Taming of the Shrew / Bruce Smith 343

The Tempest
Forgetting The Tempest / Kevin Ohi 351

Timon of Athens
Skepticism, Sovereignty, Sodomy / James Kuzner 361

Titus Andronicus
A Child's Garden of Atrocities / Michael Moon 369

Troilus and Cressida
The Leather Men and the Lovely Boy: Reading Positions in Troilus and Cressida / Alan Sinfeild 376

Twelfth Night
Is There an Audience for My Play? / Sharon Holland 385

The Two Gentlemen of Verona
Pageboy, or The Two Gentlemen of Verona: The Movie / Amy Villajero 394

The Two Noble Kinsmen
Philadelphia, or War / Jody Greene 404

Venus and Adonis421
Venus and Adonis Freeze / Andrew Nicholls 414

The Winter's Tale
Lost, or "Exit, Pursued by a Bear": Causing Queer Children on Shakespeare's TV / Kathryn Bond Stockton 421

References 429

Further Reading 449

Contributors 467

Index 477

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4845-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4833-7
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