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Shakespeare, Sex, and Love

Shakespeare, Sex, and Love [Kindle Edition]

Stanley Wells
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Product Description


This eloquent, humane and balanced book wears its erudition lightly. (Times Literary Supplement)

He treads a precise and delicate path through Shakespeare's works (Rob Maslen,TLS)

Well-paced and informative book. (John Stubbs, Literary Review)

[He] captures a great deal of the diversity and freshness of Shakespeare's writing. (John Stubbs, Literary Review,)

He is an expert and highly readable guide to the highways and byways of Shakespearean sexuality. (Charles Nicholl, Financial Times)

This is not a long book, but it draws on Well's decades of close-focus research as a Shakespeare scholar and editor. (Charles Nicholl, Financial Times)

Deeply versed in the period, urbane and unflappable in tone, refreshingly free of ideological agendas. (Charles Nicholl, Financial Times)

Wells is an expert modern guide in terms of literary criticism and biography. (The Times)

Product Description

How does Shakespeare's treatment of human sexuality relate to the sexual conventions and language of his times? Pre-eminent Shakespearean critic Stanley Wells draws on historical and anecdotal sources to present an illuminating account of sexual behaviour in Shakespeare's time, particularly in Stratford-upon-Avon and London. He demonstrates what we know or can deduce of the sex lives of Shakespeare and members of his family. He also provides a fascinating account of depictions of
sexuality in the poetry of the period and suggests that at the time Shakespeare was writing most of his non-dramatic verse a group of poets catered especially for readers with homoerotic tastes.

The second part of Shakespeare, Sex, - and Love focuses on the variety of ways in which Shakespeare treats sexuality in his plays and at how he relates sexuality to love. Wells shows that Shakespeare's attitude to sex developed over the course of his writing career, and devotes whole chapters to 'The Fun of Sex' - to how he raises laughter out of the matter of sex in both the language and the plotting of some of his comedies; portrayals of sexual desire; to Romeo and Juliet
as the play in which Shakespeare focuses most centrally on issues relating to sex, love, and the relationship between them; to sexual jealousy, traced through four major plays; 'Sexual Experience'; and 'Whores and Saints'. A final chapter, 'Just Good Friends' examines Shakespeare's rendering of same-gender

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1331 KB
  • Print Length: 280 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (8 April 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005X3SA2Y
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #332,198 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Add to the library 23 Oct 2010
By Steve Keen TOP 1000 REVIEWER
As a long-time student of Shakespeare, I'm now no longer surprised when a new angle is found on the bard's work: his use of language, his view of leadership, the influence of a particular house where he once lived. Sex and Love, of course, are not exactly new concepts in relation to the works, but I have personally never previously seen a study which treats them as worthy of a treatise in their own right, although judging by the bibliography in this one I just haven't been looking hard enough.

Stanley Wells here gives us a grand tour of subjects sexual and amorous as depicted by Shakespeare. There are the well-exercised ones such as the love between Romeo and Juliet, and the less well-aired possibilities and probabilities of homosexuality in the sonnets and in plays such as As You Like It and Troilus And Cressida. He examines the outcomes of sexual jealousy in the likes of Othello and The Winter's Tale, the way Shakespeare treats the subject of rape in, amongst others, The Tempest and Titus Andronicus, and not forgetting the brothels and whores of Measure For Measure and Henry IV, and also in this context the contradictory attitudes displayed in Pericles, the play which of them all leaves me the most baffled for exactly that reason.

Wells is as interested in the linguistic treatment as in the visual depiction, unpicking the utterances of Mercutio and Iago in order to access the subtext. In fact, the effect is as if he has taken a hydraulic jack and prised the lines apart, the better to read between them. In doing so he reveals the significance of a number of seemingly innocuous words such as "nothing", apparently signifying either male or female genitalia (who knew?).
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3.0 out of 5 stars Needs to be titled truthfully 10 Oct 2013
By Sienna
Format:Kindle Edition
Wells is a thorough and erudite reader of Shakespeare and this is a fascinating look at sex, desire and morality in his works. What it is NOT about is love. Because I am working specifically at this moment on the ways in which Shakespeare represents love throughout the works, I bought this. I expected a discussion of both sex and love, but really only found a discussion about sex. If that's what you're looking for this is a great book. But if you're looking at something centred on the many ways in which Shakespeare represents love, this is only marginally helpful. Good on desire, interesting observations on the hetero/homosexual questions, but not much here about love.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Deep Wells of Shakespeare criticism 17 May 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Stanley Wells never disappoints, such is his expertise on Shakespeare and on the work of his fellow Shakespeare scholars. I have some reservations about this one, in that it finds sexual puns a little too frequently to be altogether convincing; but there is a great deal to think about here, and dipping into deep Wells always brings up some marvellous fresh ideas. Keep your Complete Works at hand as you read, so that you can immediately see the (numerous) quotations in context. Well(s) worth the money.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.5 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book; bad editing 17 Jun 2010
By Robert S. Hanenberg - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
When I began studying Shakespeare, many of the sex jokes were glossed as "bawdy quibble," with no further explanation. These days it is possible to talk about sex in any context. Stanley Wells explains the jokes in straightforward English, neither titillating nor salacious.

But although his writing is candid and easy-going, some of the meanings of the poetry are startling. He explains, for instance, that one of the meanings of Sonnet 135 is that if the woman to whom it is addressed agrees to the poet's demands "she will increase her sexual appetite (and, however improbably, `enlarge her vagina' by enclosing his penis in it along with all the others)." These are not the imaginings of a lunatic professor, as you might imagine without having read the book, but a down-to-earth interpretation by someone who knows Elizabethan English as well as anyone in the world.

The book not only explains the meanings of the bawdy lines. It discusses sex and love of all kinds in Shakespeare, as the table of contents suggests: Sexuality in Shakespeare's Time, Shakespeare and Sex (the playwright's personal life), The Fun of Sex, Sexual Desire, Sex and Love, Sexual Jealously, Sex and Experience, Whores and Saints and "Just Good Friends."

Every year I read one or two books about Shakespeare. This is one of the best ever. But the editing, at least for the Kindle and iPod versions, is atrocious. Many words are run together, others are hyphenated in impossible ways. Shakespeare's texts were apparently clipped out as images rather than texts, and pasted together so that, for instance, you get part of a sonnet in one font, a few blank lines, and the rest of the sonnet in another font. The iPod version is left- and right-justified without proportional spacing, making it impossible to read.

But don't let the bad editing deter you. Perhaps the paper edition is edited correctly. The Kindle edition is readable, despite the bad typesetting. This book is a masterpiece of scholarship.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Shocked 13 Mar 2011
By S. kennedy - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I didn't know about Shakespeare before I picked this up at a truck stop on the I-70 right outside of Omaha
but after finishing I immediately went and read A few plays by 'William Shakespeare' and they are
awesome. You can probably do without this book, read the plays. But if you haven't read the plays
the book is something else.
4.0 out of 5 stars Saucy times 31 Dec 2013
By Jean E. Pouliot - Published on
This fine book is aimed at those adept with Shakespeare's works, but is nonetheless enjoyable by those with a more passing love of his oeuvre. Stanley Wells tries to steer a course between those who seek to airbrush the sexuality from Will's works, and those who see a sexual pun or reference in every other word. While Wills scolds those on both extremes, ultimately he seems more at home with those who can tease out of a layer of naughtiness from just about any verse. Wells gets into some deep territory, exploring whether Shakespeare was a homosexual or a bisexual. The Dark Lady in the sonnets comes in for a great deal of very abstruse commentary. By examining 16th century court cases, Wells shows the London in the 1500s to be a pretty sexy place. There are prostitutes, sodomy and scandal aplenty. But how much of this splashes onto Will's own pantaloons is hard to gauge.

I don’t have the expertise to determine whether Wells's work is definitive, but it did open my eyes to the complexity of gauging a man's personality via his fictional writing.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read 5 Aug 2010
By Paul Patenaude - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Professor Wells always produces an excellent product. I have been teaching Shakespeare since 1968 and always have wished that his body of work had been published then.
I always discover insights into the Shakespeare Cannon with Stanley pointing the way. The chapter on Romeo and Juliet was particularly enlightening. I'll be using some of his wisdom in the course-Shakespeare's Strong Women-Weaker Men, that I'll be teaching (Worcester Institute for Senior Education) this fall. Shakespeare and Stanley know the heart of women.
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