Get help from the best in academic writing.

Homosexual Desire in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 20 and Byron’s To Thyrza

Homosexual Desire in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 20 and Byron’s To Thyrza

Crompton states in his epilogue “…diverse sexual lifestyles still arouse apprehension even when they threaten no direct harm to others. In this particular matter, our culture faces business unfinished by the Enlightenment” (381). Examining Byron and Shakespeare’s poetry, opens a window to the prevailing sexual attitude of late eighteenth and early nineteenth century and defines more clearly the intent of these poets. A sexual metamorphosis involving the realization of homosexual desires and nonconventional erotic preferences occurs in both Lord Byron’s “To Thyrza” and William Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 20”, but the poets, known for the gender ambiguity in their prose and personal relationships, differ greatly in their portrayal of homosexuality and the effect that homosexuality had on both themselves and their poetry.

Byron’s homosexual temperament contrasted sharply to the orthodox attitudes shared by his society. Byron’s bisexual nature troubled his adolescence, as homosexuals faced hostile public opinion during the early 1800’s. Portraying the illegality and barbaric acts that homosexuals committed, newspapers of the day referred to gays as “monsters whose rarity matched their enormity” (Crompton 164). Secular England also condemned homosexuals for their “neglect of women” (164); however, Byron’s good looks and glamour as a poet attracted women, and he was not unresponsive to his popularity.

Intense feelings of desire and affection towards men colors Byron’s early life. A precocious child, Byron was an heir to the family title at age eight. A peer at age ten, his emotional and sexual life seemed to have developed correspondingly early. Seduced at…

… middle of paper …

…peare displayed affection for a “Master mistress”, also a male, but sublimates the desire due to disapproval of his own homosexual urges and fear of public ridicule and exile from society. Unlike Byron, Shakespeare’s homosexual affair, fictitious or genuine, does not seem to involve a physical relationship but rather an emotional bond between two men.

The existence of homosexual desires is clearly demonstrated in Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 20” and Byron’s “To Thyrza.” However, these poets’ environment dictated the sexual metamorphosis that enabled them to maintain their sexual ambiguity and protect their anonymity in their respective works. These poems provide a framework to serve the duality that reflected this era in British society; preservation of a nation’s preferred orthodox sexual identity, and the reality of its’ authors heretical erotic feelings.

Lust and the Degeneration of Man Exposed in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 129

Lust and the Degeneration of Man Exposed in Shakespeare’s 129th Sonnet

Love in its purest form is the most unsurpassable of all emotions, requiring intense commitment, while simultaneously providing incomparable bliss. However, often the intense desire for these feelings produces a new emotion, lust, with a craving that gives priority to obtaining an objectified person, as opposed to a very real human. Lust can be further practically defined as the inability to place selfless love on a higher pedestal than selfish desire. Shakespeare explores these conflicting definitions of lust in his 129th sonnet, condemning his animalistic variations of lust that coexist with his desire for a genuine state of love. As opposed to following the traditional convention of idealizing a woman and her attributes, Shakespeare breaks the concordance and focuses on the dehumanizing effect of the woman’s attributes on his character.

The general trend in this sonnet is the speaker’s analysis of the mental methods through which he has admired a woman. He attempts to craftily define lust so as to rationalize his actions to be correct. However, he gradually gains the knowledge that the lust he has felt is sacrilegious, and must cease. Sonnet 129 opens as the speaker is in great distress due to the shallow quality that has permeated his love. He feels as though he has been exhausted of his physical, mental, and moral strength in his pursuit for mutual love. An “expense of spirit in a waste of shame” is the mark of an ill-fated desire that has missed its point of satisfaction, lost in a deep cavern of an inescapable nature. When humans fall into such depths of despair, it is quite natural to fall back into the animalistic undertones that creep ste…

… middle of paper …


Works Cited

Fineman, Joel. Shakespeare’s Perjured Eye : The Invention of Poetic Subjectivity in the Sonnets. Berkeley, U of California P, 1988.

Leisham, Stephen. The Riddle of Shakespeare’s Sonnets. New York: Basic Books, 1982.

Landry, Scott. ed. A Companion to Shakespeare. Oxford: Blackwell, 2001.

Martin, Philip. Shakespeare’s Sonnets: Self, Love and Art. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1972.

Shakespeare, William. Shakespeare’s Sonnets. Ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1996.

Vendler, Helen. The Art of Shakespeare’s Sonnets. Cambridge, MA, and London: Harvard UP, 1999.

Winny, James. The Master-Mistress; A Study of Shakespeare’s Sonnets. London: Chatto and Windus, 1968.

Works Consulted

Fiedler, Leslie A. “Some Contexts of Shakespeare’s Sonnets.” The Riddle of Shakespeare’s Sonnets. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1962.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.