Queer Shakespeare: Desire and Sexuality Book Review

Queer Shakespeare:  Desire and Sexuality Book Review

“If Shakespeare the queer theorist came before queer theory, the emergence of queer theory owes much to Shakespeare as well.”

Queer Shakespeare: Desire & Sexuality looks at the many ways that Shakespeare’s plays & sonnets, intentionally or otherwise, anticipated many concepts of queer theory that we talk about today. 

Shakespeare’s work feels so alive on our stages today because of how contemporary the conversations feel, how relevant and relatable the characters’ concerns, and their desires. This book takes a close-up look at how these gears turn, in the language of the plays and in performance.

This is a great collection of essays, which will offer you interesting, sometimes surprising new ways to look at Shakespeare’s works which you might have not previously considered. 

For example, the essay ‘Antisocial Procreation’ - about Measure for Measure - made me realise how transgressive it must have been to write about a nun talking about matters relating to sexuality—and, spoiler, eventually renouncing her vows and getting married at the end—on the kind of platform Shakespeare had, given the religious context. 

The fun with theory, of course, is that you can always then see how it matches up to reality in different performances, and how different actor/director interpretations might contrast, or match up, with a reading of the text. We are fortunate that Shakespeare’s Globe is the perfect testing ground for this! There is an essay on how women’s desire is portrayed in Much Ado About Nothing which is fascinating to keep in mind if you’ve seen the 2024 production at the Globe…

Queer Shakespeare gives you plenty of queer theory, history, and paths for further reading & watching, whether you are a casual reader or an academic. I had a rollicking good time.


Reviewed by Alex (Box Office)


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