Sexuality in Shakespeare's As You Like It Essay example

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Sexuality in As You Like It

In a romantic forest setting, rich with the songs of birds, the fragrance of fresh spring flowers, and the leafy hum of trees whistling in the wind, one young man courts another. A lady clings to her childhood friend with a desperate and erotic passion, and a girl is instantly captivated by a youth whose physical features are uncannily feminine. Oddly enough, the object of desire in each of these instances is the same person. In As You Like It, William Shakespeare explores the homoerotic possibilities of his many characters. At the resolution he establishes a tenuous re-affirmation of their heterosexuality. In this essay I will show how individual characters flirt with their homoerotic
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Charles, the wrestler, compares the Duke's lifestyle to the idyllic age of Robin Hood and reports that 'many young gentlemen/ flock to him every day and fleet the time carelessly as they/ did in the golden world' (I.i. 101-103). In his article, 'Queering the Shakespeare Family,' Mario DiGangi explains this reference to the 'golden world' as being an allusion to the Renaissance myth of Orpheus, the misogynist who establishes an all-male community in order to avoid the dangers of female seduction and sexuality. In describing the lifestyle which is alluded to by Shakespeare's phrase, 'the golden world,' DiGangi explains that Orpheus and his comrades, living in isolation, did 'utterly eschew/ The womankynd' and 'taught the Thracian folke a stewes of Males to make/ And of the flowering pryme of boayes the pleasure for to take' (Ovid bk. 10, II qtd. in DiGangi 277-280). This description bears unmistakable similarities to Duke Senior's lifestyle, and makes the homosexual implications of his society undeniable. The solely masculine society of Duke Senior's woodland retreat is pleasing and attractive to the male characters in the play. This contentment with purely male companionship, coupled with the undeniable allusion to a well-known homosexual society, create a fertile ground for planting the argument that Duke Senior's lifestyle is as much alternative as it is 'sweet.'

Another, and more commonly analyzed, example of
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