Stanley Wells is one of the best-known and most versatile of Shakespeare scholars. This book, written with characteristic verve and accessibility, considers how far sexual meaning in Shakespeare's writing is a matter of interpretation by actors, directors and critics.
Tracing interpretations of Shakespearean bawdy and innuendo from eighteenth-century editors to recent scholars and critics, Wells pays special attention to recent sexually orientated studies of A Midsummer Night's Dream, once regarded as the most innocent of its author's plays. He considers the Sonnets, some of which are addressed to a man, and asks whether they imply same-sex desire in the author, or are quasi-dramatic projections of the writer's imagination.
Finally, he looks at how male-to-male relationships in the plays have been interpreted as sexual in both criticism and performance. Stanley Wells's lively, provocative, and open-minded book will appeal to a broad readership of students, theatregoers and Shakespeare lovers.
'Looking for Sex in Shakespeare finds one of the most distinguished Shakespearean scholars in top form, witty, erudite and wonderfully sane. Illuminating the deep erotic riddles of the Sonnets, the rich performed life of the plays and the lascivious byways of post-modern criticism with equal insight, this collection is at once sufficiently amusing, serious and sexy to stand alongside the Shakespearean poetry that is its subject.' Michael Dobson '... this book offers clear, good-humoured answers ...' Sunday Times 'The leading scholar Stanley Wells has collected recent lectures on Bardic bawdy at the Globe into this handy packet of three essays.' The Independent '... stimulating and full of good sense; it contrives to be both fair-minded, and a bracing corrective to some current follies.' Sunday Telegraph 'Mr Wells has fun with certain 'lewd interpreters', and everywhere shows a sanity and openness of judgment that critics and actors should note.' The Economist '... thoughtful and amusing ... This is only a little book but it touches on some big theses: the relations between text and script and the different focuses of reader and performer (not always the same thing), as well as the frequent silliness of scholars and actors who are as fallible as the rest of us.' Around the Globe 'Wells really has no equal writing today in terms of Shakespearean criticism and this superb book blows fresh air up the skirts of many a donnish fancy proving finally to be a corrective to many silliness which occlude the meaning of the plays rather than enhancing them.' Birmingham Post 'It is a short, readable volume, which explores its subject with clarity and whose leisurely style reflects its origins in a series of public lectures.' Modern Literary Review